When It Rains, It Drains.#
Water from inside our homes goes to a water reclamation facility for purification. But water from roofs, streets and outdoor spigots goes untreated directly into storm drains – straight to the Cache la Poudre River and other streams, creeks, ditches and lakes – picking up all sorts of contaminants along the way. According to the EPA, stormwater pollution is the number one source of water pollution in the country.
To minimize pollutants transported by stormwater runoff into the storm sewer system and downstream receiving waters, the City implements programs in accordance with the Colorado Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) Permit.
Why Does this Matter?#
In addition to providing plants essential moisture and returning water back to our streams, each rain storm also washes away dirt, automotive fluids, pet waste, fertilizers, trash and other pollutants common in our urban environment.
These pollutants don’t just go away though. Aquatic plants and animals depend on clean water to survive and thrive, but excess pollutants can destroy aquatic habitats. Chemicals, bacteria, and other pathogens can create health hazards, while trash and debris can choke wildlife – and the list doesn’t stop there.
Excess nutrients from pet waste, yard waste and fertilizer, among others, also pollute stormwater runoff, contributing to the third greatest cause of lake deterioration in the U.S. Too many nutrients in streams, rivers and lakes cause rapid growth of algae. Algae not only looks bad and smells bad, it also degrades water quality and can be harmful to your health. As algae decays, it uses up oxygen in the water, leading to a decline in our drinking water quality and making it more expensive to treat.
What You Can Do#
- Dispose of yard waste properly.
- Compost or bag your leaves and lawn clippings.
- Don’t blow leaves or lawn clippings into the street.
- Sweep up any spills or overspray of fertilizers on sidewalks or streets.
- Fertilize efficiently.
- Always follow the manufacturer’s application recommendations. More isn’t better!
- Fertilizing in the early fall promotes healthy root systems – leading to stronger, more resilient lawns and plants.
- Pick up dog waste and dispose of it properly.
- Be car smart.
- Use a commercial car wash, where water is recycled and sent to treatment facilities.
- Wash your car on the lawn or gravel.
- Dump your soapy bucket in the sink.
Learn more below.
Green lawns don’t have to mean green lakes.#
We all want green lawns but doing it the right way ensures we have great water, too. Excess nutrients, specifically nitrogen and phosphorus, pollute stormwater runoff from urban areas, contributing to the third greatest cause of lake deterioration in the U.S.
Did you know?#
- Excess fertilizer and yard waste can harm water quality if they get washed down storm drains.
- Leaf “litter” and landscape trash account for 56% of the phosphorus in urban stormwater, in addition to clogging storm drains and increasing debris in our streams and waterways.
- Just one pound of fertilizer over-application on the average lawn can equate to 34.2 lbs. of excess algae growth in streams and lakes. That’s one ton for every 60 homes!
- The amount of phosphorus in grass clippings generated from just one lawn mowing can produce up to 100 lbs. of unwanted algae if it ends up in our lakes and ponds.
Why Does this Matter?#
- More than 100,000 miles of rivers and streams in the U.S. are polluted with too much nitrogen and phosphorous, a distance that could stretch around the earth four times!
- Too many nutrients can cause rapid growth of algae, removing oxygen from the water, attributing odors and upsetting the aquatic ecosystem. This also directly leads to a decline in Colorado's drinking water quality.
How You Can Help#
- Compost or bag your leaves and grass clippings. Leaves and clippings left on lawns may blow or wash into storm drains, clogging them and causing flooding in the street.
- Don't blow grass clippings into the street.
- Hand pull weeds when possible.
- Sweep up any spills or over spray of fertilizers on sidewalks or streets.
- Make your own compost from leaves and grass clippings to use as fertilizer, saving money on fertilizer and trash collection.
- In Colorado, you might need to fertilize lawns twice per year. If you do, late spring and early fall are the best times to do it.
- Fertilizing in the early fall promotes healthy root systems - leading to stronger, more resilient lawns and plants.
- Watch the weather and make sure to not apply when storms will be approaching.
Turn It Down
- Adjust sprinkler systems based on weather, repair leaks, and reduce runoff.
- Don't power wash debris into the street.
- Adjust fertilizer spreaders to apply the correct amount over areas. Fertilizer bags typically provide
this information or ask at the local garden center.
- Perform soil testing to determine the right amount of fertilizers to apply.
- Consider using slow-release fertilizers with water-insoluble or slowly-soluble nutrients.
- Planting species that are native to the region can decrease the amount of turf, water, and fertilizer needed.
Ordinances and Rebates
- City of Fort Collins Neighborhood Services (see Yard Maintenance and Trash Disposal categories)
- Poudre Fire Authority Open Burning Regulations
- Fort Collins Dust Prevention and Control Manual section 3.12(b)(ii)regarding leaf blowers
- Lawn & Garden Equipment Rebates
- "Clean" Lawn Care Professionals (eligible for City rebate)
- Best Management Practices
- Yard Waste Recycling (Compost is available for purchase at most locations)
Did You Know?#
- Washing your car in the driveway can send about 120 gallons of grime-filled water downstream. The soap, together with dirt, grease and grime flows untreated into nearby storm drains, which run directly to the Poudre River and other nearby lakes and streams.
- Lack of routine vehicle maintenance can be a leading contributor to stormwater pollution because runoff carries pollutants such as soap, oil, antifreeze, gas, transmission fluid and other products to local waterways.
- One gallon of used motor oil can contaminate up to one million gallons of water. Dumping oil where it can get into our drainage system is like dumping it directly into our streams and rivers.
- These pollutants are harmful to the environment and the natural aquatic ecosystems.
Be Car Smart#
- Use a commercial car wash, where water is recycled and sent to treatment facilities. If you do wash your car at home, use ecofriendly soap and wash your car on the lawn or gravel to prevent the excess water from going down storm drains. Dump your soapy bucket in the sink, not the driveway or ground.
- Perform vehicle maintenance where chemicals and fluids cannot be washed into a storm drain.
- Check your vehicle, motorcycles, boats and other watercraft for leaks. Place an oil pan or other container under the vehicle to capture the leaking material.
- Recycle motor oil.
- Recycle other automotive fluids.
Did You Know?#
Did you know that Colorado has about 1.4 million dogs? Each dog creates about 12 ounces of waste per day, 274 pounds each per year. In Fort Collins, that's almost 27,000 pounds of dog waste each day. All total for the state, that’s 390 million pounds of dog waste a year (4,126 dump trucks worth!). Unless properly disposed of, dog waste washes down storm drains and into the river.
Why Does this Matter?#
Dog waste contains 10% phosphates and 2% nitrates. In Colorado, that’s 39 million pounds of phosphates and 8 million pounds of nitrogen. These nutrients contribute to algae growth, causing low oxygen in the water, killing fish and other aquatic wildlife.
Rain and snowmelt wash dog waste into storm drains that are connected to rivers and lakes without treatment. Here it decomposes, releasing these nutrients, causing algae and weed growth, and making the water murky, green, smelly and often unusable for swimming, boating or fishing.
Dog waste can spread pathogens that may be transmitted from pets to humans, including salmonella, giardia and parvovirus, among others. Parasite eggs dispersed in poop can survive for years in outdoor areas.
How You Can Help#
Do your duty to keep the poo out of the Poudre River with these three easy steps:
- Pick it up. Carry extra pet waste bags on every walk.
- Pitch it. Make sure to put the bags in a garbage can.
- Pay a scooper. There are several local and affordable pooper scooper businesses.
Did You Know?#
According to the EPA, stormwater pollution is the number one cause of water pollution in the country.
Stormwater pollution occurs when rain or snowmelt flows over patios, sidewalks, streets, and picks up pollutants left behind by everyday activities. These pollutants flow directly into the stormwater system, which drains to our local creeks and river without being treated by a wastewater treatment plant. To protect local water quality, your help preventing water pollution is crucial and required by law.
Common sources of pollutants include food and beverages, disposable items like napkins, plastic utensils and straws, cleaning products, cooking oil/grease and pressure washing waste.
Why Does This Matter?#
Aquatic plants and animals depend on clean water to survive and thrive. Detergents and organic waste can cause harmful algae blooms. Fats, oils and grease can stress aquatic ecosystems by preventing oxygen from entering the stream. Chemicals, bacteria, and other pathogens can create health hazards, while trash and debris can choke wildlife – and the list doesn’t stop there.
The best way to protect our local streams and the organisms that inhabit them is to prevent pollution in the first place.
How You Can Help#
- Never wash anything into a storm drain (food, trash, foliage or water/cleaning agents).
- Properly dispose of food waste, wash water and grease.
- Train employees and contractors on proper cleaning and disposal methods.
- Never pour or allow fluids containing chemicals, detergents or additives onto the ground.
- Check outdoor areas daily, including patios, alleys and trash enclosures. Clean up any spills and trash.
- Cover all grease, recycling and trash bins and contact your service provider if exterior bins need cleaning or emptying.
- Clean up spills immediately.
Your Brewery Impacts Water Quality#
You know that great beer starts with great water. But did you know that the storm drains outside your facility lead straight to the Poudre River and other local streams?
Spent grains and dirty water that get washed down storm drains are not processed through our wastewater treatment facilities. When these materials enter rivers and streams, they can lower water quality by changing pH and decreasing the oxygen available for animals and plants.
Do your part to protect water quality with these tips:#
- Don't blow your cover. Always protect storm drains using rubber berms or other covers.
- Color it in. Consider labeling or color-coding drains that lead to the river so employees know to take extra care.
- Put a lid on it. Keep roll-offs and other containers in covered areas (or use lids).
- Run on empty. Empty roll-offs and other containers frequently to prevent spills.
- Leave it high and dry. Use dry clean up methods like sweeping rather than washing spent grain and other spilled materials down the drain.
- It's an inside job. Wash containers indoors where drains lead to the treatment plant whenever possible.
- Sharing is caring. Share these tips at your next staff meeting and talk with your coworkers about what they can do to protect water quality.