DEP Home : Water : What You Can Do
Report Water Pollution
It is critical that we all pitch in to help protect local watersheds. And your actions can make a big difference! By focusing on the protection and restoration of individual streams, rivers and lakes in Montgomery County, we can improve the health of county watersheds, providing benefit to our own community as well as the larger Chesapeake Bay watershed. There are many things that you can do to help protect your watershed. Some of these actions are presented below.
Planting vegetation helps to protect watersheds in many ways.
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Using plants native to our region to restore the landscape or as a substitute for exotic ornamental plantings can help to reverse a destructive trend--the loss of native species. Over the long run, natives often form self-sustaining plant communities that don't require much maintenance. Because they're adapted to a local region, they tend to resist damage from freezing, drought, common diseases, and herbivores if planted in that region.
Native plants have many advantages; they:
More information about native plants is provided by:
In an urban environment, stormwater flows over pavement and other impervious surfaces into storm drain systems that divert the water to the nearest local stormwater management pond, stream, or lake. These man-made systems disrupt the natural pathway of rainwater, decreasing the amount of water that infiltrates (soaks into) the soil at the initial point of impact.
Reducing the movement of water into the soil (infiltration) decreases the amount of water that replenishes groundwater reserves. Groundwater is important because it replenishes the flow of our streams with cool water during periods of hot, dry weather. During drought or near-drought conditions, when stream levels are low, natural, ground-fed recharge in streams is vital to support aquatic habitat for fish and aquatic animals.
Reducing infiltration also impacts water quality. Plants and soils naturally clean and filter water. When water is diverted to storm drain systems, not only does this cleaning process not happen, but the water also picks up sediment, trash, and pollutants on its way to local waterbodies.
You can help recharge groundwater and improve water quality in streams by using a variety of RainScaping techniques that allow rainfall to soak into the soil. RainScapes are also attractive landscaping features.
Low-Impact Development (LID) focuses on the retention, detention, and infiltration of rainfall and snowmelt to maintain a natural water balance. LID is often accomplished using vegetated areas such as RainScapes. Plants help to slow the movement of water through an area and help to clean excess runoff.
Damage to stream banks and in-stream water quality can be limited by protecting the areas directly adjacent to streams, known as buffer zones. Create a buffer zone along the stream by planting vegetation, and don't mow along stream banks.
Vegetated buffers along streams help to:
Sediment runoff is mud out of place or soil on the move. The soil that erodes from disturbed construction sites (or from bare, exposed surfaces anywhere) is carried by rain runoff into the nearest storm drain and directly into a stream or river.
Soil is natural, but excessive sediment runoff is a major pollutant. Excessive sediment in streams smothers fish, aquatic insects, and aquatic plants and increases the cloudiness (turbidity) of the water.
There are many ways that you can help reduce sediment in runoff. The most important way is to eliminate bare areas in your yard by planting vegetation. Another way is to report sediment runoff to DEP if you see a sediment spill or sediment washing into a storm drain or a stream.
Thermal water pollution is a summer phenomenon that occurs when stormwater enters the streams after flowing over roads, parking lots, and other impervious surfaces that have been heated by the sun. Runoff from heated surfaces can reach temperatures as high as 90 degrees before it enters a stream. Some fish and other aquatic animals, such as trout, are sensitive to elevated water temperatures.
You can help reduce thermal water pollution from stormwater runoff by planting and maintaining forested buffers to shade streams and drainage channels near your property. Learn more about how to plant and care for trees.
Don't dump yard trim and trash onto streambanks or directly into streams and rivers. Trash dumped into the stream can lead to big pollution problems. If you see illegal dumping in or along streams, report it to DEP.
Lawn clippings, yard trim, brush, other organic matter from the yard is often dumped into streams because it is considered "natural" material. In fact, dumping such material is a serious problem and is treated as a crime.
Dumping yard waste into local water bodies causes water quality problems:
Keep a lid on your trash can and don't leave trash on the ground. Trash that reaches the street or is thrown from car windows inevitably ends up in storm drains, which lead directly into streams without any treatment or cleaning.
With a nationally recognized solid waste program, it is easy to appropriately dispose of or recycle any trash and waste material in Montgomery County.
Stream clean-ups with a watershed group, scouting group, or neighborhood organization help tremendously by giving a boost to our streams and waterways. Removing litter and trash from our streams, improves aesthetics and reduces pollution. It's also a fun activity to make friends and meet others who are interested in improving our environment.
Watch a video of a neighborhood group which cleaned up Turkey Branch in Aspen Hill, Montgomery County.
When it rains, anything that's on the ground flows into storm drains and then directly into local waterbodies. Learn what you can do to prevent stormwater pollution.