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Pollution Prevention Tips

You live in a watershed

A watershed is a land area that drains rain and other water into a creek, river, lake, wetland, bay or groundwater aquifer. Rain and irrigation from lawns and gardens wash pollutants off surfaces like streets, sidewalks, roofs, driveways and parking lots, into storm drains and creeks, and out to the Bay.

You may live miles away from the Bay and still be polluting its waters.

Pollution Prevention TipsWater from your neighborhood enters the storm drain system and flows directly to local creeks and the Bay without any treatment. It often is contaminated by pollutants that can be toxic to fish, wildlife, and people. Residents and small businesses are the leading causes of local storm water pollution, and have become the primary threats to the Bay. Pollutants that get into storm water because of our daily choices and activities can end up in our creeks and the Bay. You may be polluting the Bay without realizing it.

Storm drains carry water and pollutants directly to our local creeks and the Bay.

Never put anything into the gutter, street or storm drain. Help prevent pollutants from entering local storm drains. Storm water pollutants like these come from our everyday activities:

  • Motor oil and auto fluids which leak from our vehicles
  • Antifreeze, oil, paint or household cleaners dumped or rinsed into the gutter
  • Soap and dirt from washing cars in the driveway or street
  • Litter and grime that collects on parking lots and sidewalks
  • Weed killers, fertilizers and pesticides that are washed off lawns
  • Pet waste left on lawns, streets, in the gutter or on sidewalks
  • Dirt, leaves and lawn clippings that clog storm drains and choke creeks with too much organic material, depriving them of vital oxygen
  • Soil from construction or landscaping that erodes or blows into the street, often containing pesticides or other pollutants
  • Pollutants in the air carried by rain through storm drains into our creeks

Prevent storm water pollution in the Santa Clara Valley by making small changes to your daily routine.


  • Keep garbage and recycling cans tightly covered to prevent litter from being blown away or scattered by foraging animals.
  • Clean leaves and trash out of your rain and street gutters.
  • When using a cleaning company (e.g. carpet cleaners, window washers, power washers), be sure they dispose of wastewater in a utility sink, toilet, sanitary sewer cleanout, or a vegetated area.
  • Dispose of pet waste in the garbage.

Lawn and GardenLawn and Garden

  • Use “green” gardening methods such as conserving water, planting native plants, protecting the soil and reducing the use of toxic pesticides.
  • Adjust your sprinklers or irrigation systems to prevent over-watering, and prevent water from draining onto paved surfaces such as driveways and sidewalks.
  • Use a broom, not a hose, to clean up outside.
  • Compost leaves and yard clippings, or recycle them through your yard waste recycling program.
  • Sweep dirt into landscaping to prevent it from entering storm drains.
  • When using a gardening service, be sure they follow the guidelines listed above.

Home ImprovementHome Improvement Projects

  • Rinse latex paint tools in a sink, not outdoors.
  • Drain your pool or spa into a sanitary sewer cleanout or drain to a vegetated area, not into a street or storm drain.
  • Keep concrete, cement, dirt or mortar from blowing or flowing into the street or storm drain. Don’t wash tools or dispose of excess materials in the gutter or storm drain.
  • Provide landscaping next to sidewalks and driveways to collect runoff from paved surfaces.
  • Use “green building” materials and practices, such as pervious paving, for your next project.

Household Hazardous Waste DisposalHousehold Hazardous Waste Disposal

  • To clean up toxic spills like motor oil, paint and antifreeze, use an absorbent material. Clean up spills and dispose of soiled absorbent promptly.
  • Contact your waste hauler or go to www.hhw.org to learn about the proper disposal of these and other common household products requiring special care:


  • Regularly maintain your vehicle to prevent air-polluting exhaust and leaks of auto fluids. Fix leaks promptly.
  • If you change your own oil, recycle it and the filter with your local curbside recycling pickup, or through a household hazardous waste collection program.
  • Use a commercial car wash, or wash cars on a lawn or dirt surface. Empty your bucket of soapy water into a sink or toilet.
  • Keep a trash bag in the car. Collect all trash and dispose of it properly.
  • When hauling by truck, enclose your loads or cover with a tarp.

Protect and Enjoy Your WatershedProtect and Enjoy Your Watershed

  • If you see litter, pick it up and put it in a trash can.
  • Buy fewer harsh or toxic cleaning chemicals. Store and dispose of them properly.
  • Cars pollute air and water, so drive less.
  • Ride a bike or walk along a creek. For trail information, visit www.parkhere.org
  • Take a walk along the wetlands with a naturalist. Call the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge at Alviso at (408) 262-5513 for more details.
  • Adopt your local creek or park. Click here for other volunteer opportunities.
  • Create a legacy of pollution prevention. Teach your children about the importance of protecting the watershed for the health and survival of all living things. Show them how to prevent storm water pollution.

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