You and Your Watershed

Stormwater Outfall

From your backyard to the Chesapeake Bay, what occurs in your neighborhood affects the water quality downstream.  When it rains, stormwater runoff washes over the land, picking up contaminants including oil and grease from roads and parking lots; fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides from lawns and gardens; pet waste that was not picked up; and litter.  This water flows into stormdrains, which discharge directly to our local streams and lakes, which flow into the Potomac River and then to the Chesapeake Bay.

Why Your Watershed is Important

Your watershed should be important to you for many reasons, but mostly because the quality of our drinking water supply and the water we enjoy during recreational activities is related to the health of our streams.   Most of the public drinking water in Fairfax County comes from the Potomac River or the Occoquan Reservoir.  Pollution in streams and lakes may keep us from using them for recreation.  In fact, the Fairfax County Health Department discourages the use of streams for contact recreational purposes because of potential health risks. 

Help Your Watershed

Environmental stewardship is everyone’s responsibility.  By making small changes to your lifestyle, you can help protect and improve the quality of your watershed.   

  • Absorb or use rainwater on-site:  Create a rain garden, install a rain barrel or help absorb more water by reducing lawn area and add more plants and trees.
  • Fertilize in the fall, if at all:  Excess fertilizers are washed off the land into streams by stormwater, polluting county streams and lakes and the Chesapeake Bay.
  • Clean up after pets: Pet waste should be put in the trash or flushed down the toilet.  Waste left on the ground washes into streams and contributes to high levels of bacteria in our water.
  • Properly dispose of household chemicals:  Stormdrains are not the place to dump household waste.  The Fairfax County Household Hazardous Waste Program accepts and disposes hazardous chemicals from residents free of charge.  
  • Join a stream cleanup: Trash is not only unsightly; it is a hazard to the animals that make streams their homes.   There are several regional cleanups throughout the area every year.
  • Participate in watershed planning: Learn in which watershed you live and find the status of planning efforts in your watershed.

Additional information and other ideas can be found at Stormwater and Stream Health Action Steps.

For additional information, please contact the Stormwater Planning Division, 703-324-5500, TTY 711.


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