Water Quality Tips

There are many areas in your life where you can help to ensure the water quality within Orange County.

Agriculture Tips

  • Manage animal waste to minimize contamination of surface water and ground water.
  • Use planned grazing systems on pasture and rangeland.
  • Dispose of pesticides, containers and tank rinsewater in an approved manner.

Automotive Tips

  • Recycle used oil and antifreeze by taking them to service stations and other recycling centers.
  • Never put used oil or other chemicals down stormdrains or in drainage ditches. (One quart of oil can contaminate up to two million gallons of drinking water!).
  • Dispose of used oil, antifreeze, paints, and other household chemicals at your local household hazardous waste centers, not in storm sewers or drains.
  • Clean up spilled brake fluid, oil, grease, and antifreeze by absorbing them using kitty litter or sand and then dispose of the material at a local household hazardous waste center. Do not hose them into the street where they can eventually reach local streams and lakes.
  • Wash car engines at a "do it yourself car wash" where the drainage goes to the sewer, not the storm drain
  • Wash your car on your lawn instead of your driveway.
  • Drive only when necessary. Driving less reduces the amount of pollution your automobile generates. Automobiles emit tremendous amounts of airborne pollutants, which increase acid rain; they also deposit toxic metals and petroleum byproducts into the environment.
  • Regular tune-ups and inspections can help keep automotive waste and byproducts from contaminating runoff.
  • Wash your vehicle with soap products that are safe for the environment.

Chemicals & Cleaners Tips

  • Take unwanted household toxic products to a hazardous waste disposal facility.
  • Be aware that many chemicals commonly used around the home are toxic. Select less toxic alternatives. Use nontoxic substitutes wherever possible.
  • Buy chemicals only in the amount you expect to use, and apply them only as directed. More is not better.
  • Take unwanted household chemicals to hazardous waste collection centers; do not pour them down the drain. Pouring chemicals down the drain may disrupt your septic system or contaminate treatment plant sludge.
  • Never pour unwanted chemicals on the ground. Soil cannot purify most chemicals, and they may eventually contaminate runoff.
  • Use low-phosphate or phosphate-free detergents.
  • Use water-based products whenever possible.
  • Purchase one all-purpose cleaner instead of buying one product for every room.
  • Buy household products such as cleaners and furniture polish labeled "non toxic".

Lawn & Garden Tips

  • Minimize grassed areas which require high maintenance.
  • Don't over water your lawn.
  • Use landscaping techniques such as grass swales (low areas in the lawn) or porous walkways to increase infiltration and decrease runoff.
  • Apply lawn and garden chemicals sparingly and according to directions.
  • When your lawn or garden needs watering, use slow-watering techniques such as trickle irrigation or soaker hoses. (Such devices reduce runoff and are 20-percent more effective than sprinklers.)
  • Leave lawn clippings on your lawn so that nutrients in the clippings are recycled and less yard waste goes to landfills.
  • If you elect to use a professional lawn care service, select a company that employs trained technicians and follows practices designed to minimize the use of fertilizers and pesticides.
  • Compost your yard trimmings. Compost is a valuable soil conditioner which gradually releases nutrients to your lawn and garden. (Using compost will also decrease the amount of fertilizer you need to apply.) In addition, compost retains moisture in the soil and thus helps you conserve water.
  • Spread mulch on bare ground to help prevent erosion and runoff.
  • Test your soil before applying fertilizers. Over fertilization is a common problem, and the excess can leach into ground water or contaminate rivers or lakes. Also, avoid using fertilizers near surface waters.
  • Use slow- release fertilizers on areas where the potential for water contamination is high, such as sandy soils, steep slopes, compacted soils, and verges of water bodies.
  • Select the proper season to apply fertilizers: Incorrect timing may encourage weeds or stress grasses.
  • Do not apply pesticides or fertilizers before or during rain due to the strong likelihood of runoff.
  • Calibrate your applicator before applying pesticides or fertilizers. As equipment ages, annual adjustments may be needed.
  • Keep storm gutters and drains clean of leaves and yard trimmings. (Decomposing vegetative matter leaches nutrients and can clog storm systems and result in flooding.)

Pet Tips

  • Keep litter, pet wastes, leaves, and debris out of street gutters and storm drains. These outlets drain directly to lakes, streams, rivers, and wetlands.
  • Pick up animal waste and dispose of in a trash can
  • Don't feed wild birds or animals near ponds, creeks, or the ocean
  • Clean up after your pets. Pet waste contains nutrients and pathogens that can contaminate surface water.

Paint & Solvents Tips

  • Don't let toxic liquids, such as oil, fuel, or paint, enter the storm drains.
  • Rinse paint brushes with water-based paint in the sink.
  • Use up all of your paint cleaners, solvents, and paints or share your leftovers with neighbors
  • Filter and reuse paint thinner or brush cleaners

Pesticides & Fertilizers Tips

  • Leftover household pesticide? Do not indiscriminately spray pesticides, either indoors or outdoors, where a pest problem has not been identified.
  • Dispose of excess pesticides at hazardous waste collection centers.
  • When landscaping your yard, select plants that have low requirements for water, fertilizers, and pesticides.
  • Cultivate plants that discourage pests.
  • Use pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers in accordance with label instructions.
  • Don't overuse fertilizer in your yard.

Remodeling Choices Tips

  • Install wood decking or bricks or interlocking stones instead of impervious cement walkways.
  • Install gravel trenches along driveways or patios to collect water and allow it to filter into the ground.
  • Restore bare patches in your lawn as soon as possible to avoid erosion.
  • Grade all areas away from your house at a slope of one percent or more.
  • Repair leaking faucets, toilets, and pumps.

Soil Erosion Tips

  • Control erosion at landscape sites to prevent dirt and debris from entering storm drains
  • Divert rainspouts and garden hoses from paved surfaces onto grass to allow water to filter through the soil
  • Preserve existing trees, and plant trees and shrubs to help prevent erosion and promote infiltration of water into the soil.
  • Control soil erosion on your property by planting ground cover and stabilizing erosion-prone areas.
  • Reduce soil erosion by using conservation practices and other applicable Best Management Practices.
  • Encourage local government officials to develop construction erosion/sediment control ordinances in your community.

Septic Systems Tips

  • Improperly maintained septic systems can contaminate ground water and surface water with nutrients and pathogens.
  • By following the recommendations below, you can help ensure that your system continues to function properly.
  • Inspect your septic system annually.
  • Pump out your septic system regularly. (Pumping out every three to five years is recommended for a three-bedroom house with a 1,000-gallon tank; smaller tanks should be pumped more often.)
  • Do not use septic system additives. There is no scientific evidence that biological and chemical additives aid or accelerate decomposition in septic tanks; some additives may in fact be detrimental to the septic system or contaminate ground water.
  • Do not divert stormdrains or basement pumps into septic systems.
  • Avoid or reduce the use of your garbage disposal. (Garbage disposals contribute unnecessary solids to your septic system and can also increase the frequency your tank needs to be pumped.)
  • Don't use toilets as trash cans! Excess solids may clog your drainfield and necessitate more frequent pumping.
  • Homeowners can significantly reduce the volume of wastewater discharged to home septic systems and sewage treatment plants by conserving water. If you have a septic system, by decreasing your water usage, you can help prevent your system from overloading and contaminating ground water and surface water. (Seventy-five percent of drainfield failures are due to hydraulic overloading.)

Trash & Recycling Tips

  • Put cigarette butts in ash trays not in the street or storm drain.
  • Use a broom rather than a hose to clean driveways and sidewalks.
  • Use natural products or less toxic pesticides.
  • Don't litter! Throw trash in a trash can before leaving an area.
  • Recycle reusable materials.
  • Keep those old wireless phones out of landfills.

Water Conservation Tips

  • Use low-flow faucets, shower heads, reduced-flow toilet flushing equipment, and water saving appliances such as dish and clothes washers.
  • Repair leaking faucets, toilets, and pumps.
  • Use dishwashers and clothes washers only when fully loaded.
  • Take short showers instead of baths and avoid letting faucets run unnecessarily.
  • Wash your car only when necessary; use a bucket to save water. Alternatively, go to a commercial car wash that uses water efficiently and disposes of runoff properly.
  • Do not over-water your lawn or garden. Over-watering may increase leaching of fertilizers to ground water.
  • Protect drinking water by using less pesticides and fertilizers.