Only Rain Down the Storm Drain! Help Prevent Water Pollution

(Conservation Currents, Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District, Spring 2007)

Storm drain label reading “Only Rain Down the Storm Drain”Did you know that the water that goes down the storm drain on your street flows right into your local stream? Polluted rain water is the nation’s number one water quality problem, and you can help do something about it! This March and April, Fairfax County joined other Northern Virginia localities in a water pollution prevention campaign to educate residents about how common household waste and chemicals can contaminate local streams. The campaign featured a “Only Rain Down the Storm Drain” message that ran on several radio stations.

Nonpoint source pollution, often called stormwater runoff pollution, comes from many sources, including parking lots, lawns, driveways, golf courses, and roads. Rainwater that runs off these surfaces picks up contaminants like motor oil, fertilizer, pesticides, and bacteria from pet waste. This stormwater runoff flows into storm drains and then into local streams and the Potomac River, the sources of drinking water for many residents in the Washington, D. C. area. This runoff also contributes to the pollution affecting the Chesapeake Bay.

So what can you do to prevent water pollution? Follow these simple tips:

  • Dispose of used motor oil and household hazardous waste (paint, batteries, household cleaners, etc.) properly through the Household Hazardous Waste program, rather than pouring it on the driveway or into the storm drain;
  • Avoid excess fertilizer or pesticide use, especially before rain is predicted;
  • Wash your car at a commercial carwash, or in a location where the soapy water will not run into the storm drain;
  • Sweep up dirt, grass clippings, and other yard waste instead of washing them down the driveway and into the gutter;
  • Always pick up pet waste from your yard, sidewalk, or park area.

Volunteers place a multi-colored label on a local storm drainThe campaign is coordinated by the Northern Virginia Regional Commission. Campaign partners included Arlington County, Alexandria, Fairfax County, Prince William County, Loudoun County, Fairfax City, the City of Falls Church, the town of Herndon, the town of Vienna, Fairfax Water, and the Loudoun County Sanitation Authority (LCSA).

For more information about preventing stormwater pollution, please check the campaign web site.

You can also get involved by participating in the storm drain education program sponsored by the Northern Virginia Soil & Water Conservation District. As part of this program, you volunteer to place colored labels on the storm drains in your community and educate your friends and neighbors about water pollution, and how to prevent it!

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