I got a new poster for my office that stares at me each morning when I arrive to work. The message is short but thought provoking. It reads: IRRESPONSIBILITY: No Single Raindrop Believes It Is To Blame for the Flood. Think about that for a minute. The message puts the challenge of stormwater management in simple perspective. For the record, it is not just raindrops and the flood but also the candy wrappers in the buildup of litter, the pet waste adding nutrients to waterways, the people whose many behaviors affect the Chesapeake Bay, etc. The impact of any one ‘drop’ can usually be mitigated by various natural environmental systems. However, as the numbers grow, be it raindrops, discarded wrappers, pets, or people; the overload begins and the degradation multiplies. The denial of individual responsibility greatly hampers efforts to restore the environment.
Each community in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, from New York and Pennsylvania to Maryland and Virginia, is charged with controlling stormwater to minimize the nutrients and sediment it carries to our streams, rivers and the Bay. This mandate can only be achieved if we all take responsibility. Managing stormwater from rooftops, driveways and roads must be a community effort. Together we are the raindrops that cause the flood and together we need to find the solutions.
Over the next few years we will see more tools added to our stormwater management toolbox. We will all need to embrace these tools and change our behavior to reverse the flood. Rain barrels, rain gardens, down spout diversions, porous pavers, and bio-swales need to become as common as the blue bins at the curb on recycling day. This effort must be a partnership between the government, residents and commercial land owners.
While planning for your rain garden or porous paver patio, there are a few simple things you can do today to jump start your role in minimizing stormwater impacts. Remember what enters a storm drain goes straight to a stream. There is no treatment plant to remove the variety of pollutants washed off the land. Many little projects together can make a big difference in stream water quality.
1. Limit the amount of fertilizer you apply to your lawn. Excess fertilizer is washed away by stormwater runoff and into our streams.
2. Pick up after your pets. When it rains, animal waste can be washed into streams.
3. Wash your vehicle at a carwash instead of your driveway. Soaps and detergents enter storm drains and then streams.
4. Maintain your vehicle. Antifreeze and oil that leak are washed off the road, into storm drains and into a stream.
5. Don’t dump anything into storm drain inlets. Anything that enters a storm inlet goes directly to a stream or pond.
6. Properly dispose of trash. The litter on the side of the road is carried by stormwater to the nearest stream.
The challenge is significant. We need to accept the responsibility and get started on the solutions. The six pollutant reduction ideas listed above are easy but effective behaviors that if practiced by the majority of us raindrops will start to reduce the flood and help save the Bay.