Six Tips for Californians to Prevent Water Pollution


Before and after photos where garbage was removed from the gutter. "Let's change this to that"

(BPT) ¬≠ It’s a common misconception that rain washes dirt, bacteria and other pollutants from our communities, leaving them cleaner and safer. The reality is pollutants are washed by stormwater runoff from our yards, sidewalks, roadways and highways into storm drain systems and flow untreated to local waterways, inevitably polluting California’s lakes, rivers, streams and the ocean.

After another rainy winter and the promise of more wet weather this spring, managing water pollution is a top priority where we live and recreate. Many state residents unknowingly contribute to stormwater pollution through their daily activities. Major pollutants include trash, metals, bacteria, pesticides, sediment and nitrates, and can have severe impacts on public health, causing various illnesses and diseases.

The good news is that Californians can play a part in helping reduce water pollution through simple actions. recommends these six tips:

Photo of person throwing fallen leaves into greenwaste bin

Pick up and properly dispose of grass cuttings, leaves and other green waste or consider composting green material. Green waste carries nitrogen and phosphorus which can adversely affect local lakes, rivers and streams. As green waste decays in water, it can cause harmful algal blooms and deplete oxygen levels for aquatic life.

Consider using natural pest control methods instead of harmful pesticides. Pesticides made from highly toxic chemicals can have long­lasting effects on the health of our water and the environment. Choosing organic alternatives like companion planting or using beneficial insects like ladybugs can make a real difference for water quality.

Photo of a lady bug on a leaf
Photo of person throwing away pet waste in the proper container

Pick up after pets. A common misconception is that pet waste is a natural fertilizer and can be left to decompose in the environment. Not so! Pet waste can contain harmful bacteria such as E. coli and fecal coliform, which can carry diseases that affect wildlife and contaminate waterways when not properly disposed of.

Sweep driveways and sidewalks instead of using the hose and, if possible, wash cars at a facility. Washing cars and driveways at home can cause pollution as metals and fluids are washed off and enter storm drains, collecting more pollutants along the way and ending up in waterways. Try choosing car wash facilities that use advanced filtration systems to recycle water used for washing cars.

Photo of person sweeping up outside
Photo of person working on a car with the hood up

Take care to properly maintain vehicles. Vehicle fluids, oils and brake dust are made up of toxic heavy metals that end up on roadways and highways without proactive maintenance. Simple solutions to reduce the risk of rain carrying these metals to waterways include proper tire inflation, regular maintenance to check for leaks and wiping down wheel wells to remove brake dust.

Join a cleanup event to prevent frequently littered items, including cigarette butts, food wrappers, and more, from adversely affecting community recreation spots. Go the extra mile to protect against water pollution and visit for a list of upcoming events.

Photo from a community cleanup event