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The United States has made tremendous advances since Congress passed the Clean Water Act in 1972 to clean up the aquatic environment by controlling pollution from industries and wastewater treatment plants. Today, nonpoint source pollution remains the nation’s largest source of water quality problems. Sometimes referred to as polluted runoff, nonpoint source pollution occurs when rainfall, snowmelt, or irrigation runs over land or through the ground, picks up pollutants such as trash and pet waste, and deposits them into surface waters or introduces them into ground water. The most common nonpoint source pollutants are sediments and nutrients. Other common nonpoint source pollutants include pesticides, pathogens, salts, oils, and excess fertilizer.
The watershed approach is the preferred way to restore a stream, river, or lake. It looks beyond the waterbody itself and examines the entire drainage area, including all the potential sources of pollution that drain into it. Water conservation uses practices and technologies that limit water use in the bathroom, kitchen, laundry room, lawn, driveway, and garden. Conserving water reduces the demand on existing water supplies and limits the amount of water that runs off the land. Runoff should also be minimized by using low impact development (LID) techniques, which work with the natural landscape and native plants to soak up more rainwater by improving infiltration. Low impact development solutions include rainscaping. A rainscape combines plantings, water features, and other activities that manage stormwater as close as possible to where it falls, rain gardens, and green roofs, which treat rainwater as a precious resource. Other ways to control polluted runoff include erosion control techniques such as silt fencing around construction sites, establishment of riparian (vegetated) zones next to waterbodies to filter out pollutants, Finally, many local groups organize volunteer monitoring efforts, which provide information that can help government agencies understand the impacts of nonpoint source pollution and solve problems. Working together, we can all make a difference.
(adapted from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – Nonpoint Source Pollution Awareness)