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Extension: Stormwater management starts at home

Stormwater runoff can affect the quantity and quality of water that must be handled somewhere downstream. Excess runoff can contribute to flooding. 

Contaminated runoff can damage water, making it unfit for human consumption and wildlife habitat. Stormwater runoff is the rain and melting snow that flows off streets, rooftops, lawns, parking lots, open fields, and any other exposed area. 

The runoff carries with it whatever can be dislodged from the various sites, such as salt, soil, leaves, pesticides, fertilizers, oil, gasoline, and any other materials present on the surface. 

These materials are washed off a wide geographic area rather than originating from one point. That makes preventing contamination more important as well as more difficult.

Managing stormwater runoff is often considered the job of the local government, a subdivision developer, or possibly a homeowners’ association. 

Certainly, good planning and implementation by any or all these entities is important to a successful community stormwater management plan. 

However, it is also important that individual homeowners understand their role in stormwater management and their impact on the larger community.

Start at home

Reducing the quantity and improving the quality of stormwater runoff in a community can start with individual homeowners.  

Some stormwater best management practices can be implemented when first planning and building the home and designing the landscape. Others can be incorporated into day-to-day activities.

Day-to-Day Best Management Practices

• Avoid overuse of pesticides and fertilizers — use only the amount needed and apply only when necessary;

• Apply fertilizer and pesticides only onto target areas. Don’t spread fertilizer onto paved surfaces that drain to the storm sewer;

• Follow recommended watering practices. Avoid excess watering and don’t sprinkle water onto paved or other areas that drain into the storm sewer;

• Avoid compacting yard and garden soils because compaction impedes water infiltration;

• Avoid unnecessary pesticide, fertilizer, or water use by using plants adapted to the local area;

• Clean up hazardous material spills properly and don’t wash waste into the storm sewer;

• Store oil, gasoline, antifreeze, and other automotive products properly. Keep these substances tightly sealed and avoid leaky containers;

• Clean up oil or other vehicle fluid drippings. Do not store used vehicle parts on areas that drain to the storm sewer;

• Wash vehicles at a commercial car wash or on a non-paved surface to avoid drainage to the storm sewer;

• Avoid allowing pet waste to be dumped or washed into the storm sewer. Properly bury or flush the waste down a toilet into the sanitary sewer system for treatment. Reduce or avoid areas of concentrated pet waste;

• Mulch grass clippings and leave these on the lawn for natural fertility or use the clippings for composting;

• Keep grass clippings and leaves from washing into the storm sewer;

• Drain downspouts onto grassy areas. Collect water from downspouts for use around the home;

• Do not discharge sump-pump water onto paved surfaces that drain to the storm sewer;

• Mulch and seed bare soil as soon as possible to prevent the soil from eroding into the storm sewer.

Many of these best management practices may seem rather simple or small but used all throughout an entire watershed it can significantly contribute to improved storm water management.

For further agricultural questions, or 4-H inquires contact the Forsyth County Extension Office at 770-887-2418 or email us

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