Stormwater & Your Home
What You do in Your Backyard…
If your home has a roof, a lawn, or a driveway, chances are your property creates stormwater runoff. Property owners can play a role in improving water quality by soaking up stormwater runoff to prevent it from reaching nearby lakes, streams, and other waters. What you do in your own back yard can impact the entire watershed, including the health of lakes, streams, and other waters in your neighborhood and beyond.
What is Stormwater Runoff?
Stormwater runoff is water from rain or melting snow that doesn’t soak into the ground. Instead, it flows over the land surface, picks up pollutants in its path, and flows untreated into nearby bodies of water. Runoff can pollute lakes, ponds, streams, and coastal waters, making them unsafe for swimming and creating an unsafe habitat for fish and other animals. Runoff can cause other problems such as flooding and erosion. In fact, stormwater runoff contributes to over 90% of the water quality problems in New Hampshire.
Impervious surfaces (e.g., roofs, driveways, walkways, decks, patios, compacted soils, other hard surfaces) change the way that water flows over and through the land. They prevent stormwater from soaking into the ground and create excess stormwater runoff. Excess stormwater runoff becomes a problem when streams have to accommodate more flow than nature designed, resulting in flooding, stream bank erosion, and reduced groundwater recharge.
Eroding soils cause sediment, which makes the water cloudy and reduces clarity. Fine sediment can clog the gills of fish and smother fish habitat. Sediment can literally fill in a lake or stream, making it easier for plants, including invasive plants like purple loosestrife and exotic milfoil, to take root. Sediment tends to carry other pollutants with it including excess nutrients and metals.
Fertilizer, Pet Waste, Septic Systems
Fertilizers, pet waste, and septic systems can contribute excess nutrients that speed up plant and algae growth, including cyanobacteria, which can harm humans and animals and be a nuisance for swimming and boating. Nutrients can decrease the amount of oxygen in the water as plants die and decompose, leaving less oxygen available for fish and other organisms.
They can also increase bacteria that can make swimmers sick and lead to beach closures. Bacteria not only pose a public health risk, but can be bad for the economy of communities that rely on bathing beaches for tourism revenue.
Lawn Chemicals and Auto Chemicals
Lawn care chemicals and automotive chemicals can contribute potentially toxic contaminants that are harmful and potentially fatal to aquatic organisms, humans, and other animals.
Salt & Deicing Materials
Salt and other deicing materials used to treat roads include chloride, which increases the salinity of lakes. This stresses aquatic organisms that depend on freshwater habitats. As salinity increases, freshwater plants die off and salt-tolerant plants take over. Chloride can contaminate drinking water supplies, including private wells. Unlike other pollutants, there is no treatment for chloride pollution except for source control.
There are many Stormwater Solutions and good housekeeping practices that you can do around your property to help reduce stormwater runoff problems. Implementing good housekeeping and other stormwater practices on your property can help reduce the amount of excess stormwater runoff and stormwater pollution coming from your property. This helps to protect water quality, reduce flooding, and replenish groundwater.
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