When you think of water pollution, you may picture contaminants coming from somewhere like an industrial operation or wastewater treatment plant. This is known as point source pollution, because the pollutants are coming from a single, known source. Pollution from point sources is controlled through regulations that require treatment of a facility’s wastewater before it is discharged into a nearby lake or stream. However, did you know that this is not the only type of water pollution that can occur? Contaminants can also enter the water through nonpoint source pollution.
What is Nonpoint Source Pollution?
Many of our daily activities can cause contaminants to enter the water, without us even knowing. This type of pollution is known as nonpoint source pollution, because it comes from many different, sometimes unknown, sources. Nonpoint source pollution results when small amounts of contaminants from multiple sources are carried by rainfall runoff into lakes, streams, or bays.
Since it results from the everyday activities of many different people, it can be challenging to control this type of pollution. Sources of nonpoint source pollution can include activities like fertilizing a lawn, using pesticides, or constructing a road or building. For example, pollutants may be washed off lawns, construction areas, farms, or highways during a heavy rain and carried into a nearby creek.
How You Can Reduce Nonpoint Source Pollution
Although nonpoint source pollution is often a result of our everyday activities, there are many ways you can reduce your impact and help keep the Texas water clean!
Check your car for leaks. If you find any leaks or spills, make repairs as soon as possible. Don’t hose them into the street, where they can travel down a nearby storm drain. Clean up any spilled fluids with an absorbent, like cat litter or sand.
Apply lawn and garden chemicals sparingly. Misapplication of fertilizer poses a significant threat to surface water and groundwater. More is not always better—apply fertilizers and pesticides according to the label’s directions and only use the recommended amount. Applying mulch, leaving grass clippings on the lawn, and using native plants can reduce the need for fertilizers.
Pick up after your pet. Dog waste is a major contributor of bacterial pollution in urban watersheds. Even if you are in your own yard, pick up your pet’s waste. It does not make a good fertilizer and will not wash away on its own.
Keep street gutters and storm drains clear. Litter, chemicals, or other waste can travel down street gutters and storm drains, which will carry it directly into lakes, streams, and rivers.
Dispose of used oil properly. Never pour used motor oil down storm drains. The used oil from just one oil change can contaminate one million gallons of fresh water—a year’s supply for 50 people! Whenever you change your oil or other vehicle fluids, make sure you recycle them. Locate a recycling center.
Inspect your septic system. Have a licensed professional inspect your system every three years and have the septic tank pumped as necessary. Septic systems that are not properly maintained can contaminate surface water and groundwater.
Irrigate Efficiently. Watering too heavily or too rapidly can weaken your lawn, causing erosion and runoff. The runoff can carry fertilizers and pesticides with it. A general rule is to water one inch per week. Always comply with your water system’s restrictions.