The Watershed: H2O

Welcome to!

Welcome to!

Welcome to my home in the Watershed. Here I'll show you how to be an H2O Hero just like me! Just do some exploring and I'll share 11 helpful tips with you. Then use the links or tabs below for even more information.

Clean up after your pets

Did you know that 15 to 20 percent of the bacteria in our waterways come from pet waste? Now that really stinks! Cleaning up after your pet is the simplest thing you can do to keep harmful bacteria from being washed into our storm drains, and eventually into our waterways. For more information, read our "At Home" section.

Make a Rain Barrel

A rain barrel collects rainwater that can be used later to water landscaping around your home. This can save most homeowners over 1,000 gallons of water a year! Collecting and using rainwater helps protect the environment and saves money and energy by reducing the demand for treated tap water. Learn how to make a rain barrel for your home in our H2O Quality 101 section below.

Minimize your use of fertilizers and pesticides

Keep fertilizers and pesticides off driveways, sidewalks, and roads where they would run off into storm drains. Don't apply them near waterways. For more information, read our "At Home" section.

Only Rain Down The Drain

Storm drains connect your neighborhood directly to the nearest stream or body of water. They're different from sanitary sewers, which connect to a treatment facility. it's never a good idea to dump anything into a storm drain because it doesn't get treated and will pollute our waterways. To learn more about storm drains, check out our H2O Quality 101 section.

Recycle Your Oil

When changing your car's oil, please make sure to recycle the old oil. Be sure to clean up any spills by absorbing with kitty litter or sand, then dispose of properly. For more information, read our "At Home" section.

Keep the Pavement Clear of Grass Clippings

Mulching grass clippings or leaving them on your lawn provides a nitrogen-rich fertilizer. Mowing high helps control weed growth. Sweep up grass clippings from roadways and driveways, and DO NOT dump grass clippings or other plant materials into streets, catch basins, or streams — the nutrients will leach from them and enter nearby waterways, spurring unwanted algae growth. For more information, read our "At Home" section.

Mark Storm Drains

Storm drain marking can help deter storm drain dumping and reduce non-point source pollution by informing residents that anything that goes down a storm drain goes directly into a waterbody without being treated. To be an H2O Hero and volunteer to coordinate a storm drain marking event, read our "Get Involved" section.

Maintain a Buffer Strip Along Waterways

Undisturbed (unmowed) vegetation along streams and drainage pathways will capture nutrients that wash off your lawn before they are discharged to the waterway. For more information, read our "At Home" section.

Dispose of Hazardous Chemicals Properly

If your garage is anything like Larry's, it probably has its share of half-used cans of paint, cleaners and chemicals lying around. Some people dump them down the storm drain - or throw them in the trash - just to get rid of them. Learn the right way to dispose of these materials so they don't end up getting into our groundwater and our nearby lakes and streams. For more information, read our "At Home" section.

Visit the Local Car Wash

Sure, Larry likes to keep his wheels looking hot. But he knows that washing his car at the local car wash - instead of in his driveway - is the best way to keep harmful detergents from getting into our local waterways. For more information, read our "At Home" section.

Create a Rain Garden

A rain garden is a planted depression that is designed to absorb rainwater runoff from roofs and driveways. This reduces stormwater runoff by allowing rain to soak into the ground and replenish groundwater. By reducing runoff, rain gardens help protect water quality and reduce erosion and flooding. To install a rain garden in your yard, visit our "Get Involved" section.

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At Home

Be an H2O Hero at Home: Make Your Home the Solution to Pollution

When you look around at your community, you will likely notice that there is more land covered with housing than any other use. Every house has impervious surfaces (roofs, sidewalks, and/or driveways) that prevent water from soaking into the ground. The stormwater runoff that comes from these impervious surfaces picks up pollutants that have come from the air, lawn and garden care, vehicles, pets, or on-site wastewater treatment systems and washes them into our waterways. If you and your neighbors become H2O Heroes, you can make a difference by reducing the pollutants that make their way to your local detention pond, stream and eventually Lake Ontario. Click on one of the links to learn more about what you can do at home:

1. Proper Pet Waste Disposal


Pet waste left on the street or lawn does not just go away or fertilize the grass. The bacteria and nutrients in dog waste are often washed by rainwater or snowmelt down storm drains and into ditches, streams, ponds, and lakes and can travel for miles in the water. Kitty litter dumped outside can also be washed into our streams. The bacteria from pet waste can make it unsafe to swim in our waters. Pet waste also contains nutrients that promote weed and algae growth (eutrophication). Cloudy and green, eutrophic water makes swimming and recreation unappealing or even unhealthy. It's been estimated that there are more than 110,000 dogs that live in Monroe County. Just think about the amount of pollutants that could be washed into our waterways from that much dog waste! In most communities, it is the law that dog waste must be picked up from sidewalks, roads, or the private property of another person.

How? For Dog Waste:
  • Keep a supply of bags near your dog leash; tie bags on the leash if you don't have a pocket or pack.
  • Reuse old bags.
  • Purchase special bags where pet supplies are sold.
  • Long-handled "pooper scoopers" available at pet stores make it easy to pick up after your dog without stooping over.
  • Discard the bag in your outdoor trash can.
  • Need help? You can contract with a service to pick up the pet waste in your yard. Check in the Yellow Pages or use a search engine to find a service.
For Cat Waste:
  • Bag used kitty litter, tie securely, and place in garbage.

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2. Lawn Care and Landscaping for the H2O Hero at Home:

Map of Larrys house #1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

1: Minimize fertilizer Use: Fertilizers used for lawns and gardens may contain nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. In Monroe County, most of our soils already have enough phosphorus to make our grass and plants grow. Phosphorus in fertilizer gets washed off our grass and gardens with rainwater; the phosphorus makes its way to our ponds and lakes. Too much phosphorus in our waterways causes an excess of algae and other plant growth in our water. For more information on phosphorus in our local waterways, go to H2O Quality 101. Make sure your fertilizer does not contain phosphorus by reading the label and verifying that the middle number of the three number set shown is 0, for example 12-0-15. Fertilize in early autumn only to supplement nitrogen, and now, IT'S THE LAW!: New York State has recently banned the application of fertilizers containing phosphorous on lawns, unless a soil test indicates that it is low in phosphorous. In addition, the application of any fertilizer to the lawn is banned between December 1st and April 1st. Dispose of unused phosphorus-containing fertilizers properly.

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2: Mulching grass clippings or leaving them on your lawn provides a nitrogen-rich fertilizer. Mowing high helps control weed growth. Sweep up grass clippings from roadways and driveways, and DO NOT dump grass clippings or other plant materials into streets, catch basins, or streams — the nutrients will leach from them and enter nearby waterways, spurring unwanted algae growth.

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3: The fertilized soil that you create by composting leaves and grass clippings can be recycled in your yard and reused as a natural fertilizer.

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4: Undisturbed (unmowed) vegetation along streams and drainage pathways will capture nutrients that wash off your lawn before they are discharged to the waterway. Now IT'S THE LAW!: New York State now prohibits the application of lawn fertilizer within 20 feet of any surface water except where there is a vegetative buffer of at least 10 feet. Low cost conservation plants are available in early spring from the Monroe County Soil and Water Conservation District and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

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5: Why? Pollutants picked up from your roof can be kept out of the waterways if they are first filtered and used by your existing vegetation. If the downspouts are directed to impervious surfaces like your driveway and storm sewer, they will make their way directly to the closest waterway. How? You can direct your downspouts directly onto vegetated surfaces, such as a rain garden, or install a rain barrel to collect the rain and distribute it as needed to other parts of your yard during drier periods.

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6: Plant rain gardens of native drought- and pest-resistant plants to collect and filter rainwater. Why? Because rainwater picks up pollutants from the surfaces it touches, and washes them into our waterways. For more information on rain gardens, click here.

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7: Most storm drains flow directly to nearby waterways, and any fertilizer, dirt, and debris that enters the storm drains will cause pollution of streams, and eventually Lake Ontario. Now IT'S THE LAW!: New York State has recently prohibited application of fertilizer on impervious surfaces and requires pick up of fertilizer applied or spilled onto impervious surfaces, such as sidewalks, driveways, and roadways.

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8: Use proper pesticide notification signs and let your neighbors know. Go to or call 753-PEST for more information and regulations.

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9: When it rains, any misapplied fertilizers sitting on sidewalks or other paved areas will get washed into drainageways and make their way, untreated, into our waterways.

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10: Follow directions on the bag and don't apply broadly. Sweep up excess from driveways and sidewalks; don't wash off these surfaces.

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Download the H2O Hero Lawn care and Landscaping brochure

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3. Car Maintenance

Reconsider car maintenance at home: Why?

When cars are washed on streets and driveways, dirty water enters storm drains and makes its way to local waterways. The used wash water contains, among other things, detergent residue, heavy metals, and oil and grease. Other pollutants that can make their way to waterways from cars include residue from exhaust fumes, gasoline, heavy metals from rust and motor oils.


Use a commercial car wash: The average homeowner uses 116 gallons of water to wash a car, while most commercial car washes use 60% less water for the entire process than a homeowner uses just to rinse the car. Also, most commercial car washes reuse wash water and then send it to a wastewater treatment plant for processing.

If you do wash your car at home, here's how to minimize the water quality impact:

  • Use only biodegradable, phosphate-free, water-based cleaners.
  • Use a high-pressure, low-volume hose with a trigger nozzle to save water.
  • Wash on an area that absorbs water, such as gravel, or grass, which filters water before it enters groundwater, storm drains, or creeks.
  • Avoid washing cars on concrete or asphalt pavement.
  • When planning a car wash fundraiser, try developing a partnership with a commercial car wash facility or have the cars washed on a permeable surface. There are also charity car wash kits available for purchase that prevent wash water from entering the storm drain. They typically include a tub, pump, and hose.
  • Always empty wash buckets into sinks or toilets, or onto the lawn.
Car Oil: Why?

Used oil from a single oil change can pollute up to one million gallons of freshwater. Improper disposal of used oil, which includes oil leaking from cars, contributes significantly to stormwater pollution. The EPA estimates that American households generate 193 million gallons of used oil every year and improperly dump the equivalent of 17 Exxon Valdez oil spills every year. Oil that leaks from cars onto pavement will get washed into nearby storm drains and enter local waterways untreated. Never dump motor oil, antifreeze, transmission fluid, or other engine fluids down storm drains, into road gutters, on the ground, or into a ditch.

What can you do?
  • Check your car often for oil and fluid drips and other leaks and fix them promptly.
  • Have your car regularly tuned up to reduce oil use.
  • Use ground cloths or drip pans under your vehicle if you have leaks or are doing engine work.
  • RECYCLE used motor oil. Many auto supply stores, car care centers, gas stations, and some public works facilities accept used motor oil.
  • Clean up spills immediately. Use kitty litter or sand to soak up the liquid. Properly dispose of this material after the spill. Collect all used motor oil in containers with tight fitting lids. Do not mix waste oil with gasoline, solvents, or other engine fluids. This contaminates the oil, which may otherwise be reused, and may form a more hazardous chemical.

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4. Household chemicals, electronics, & pharmaceuticals

Household cleaners, automotive fluids, pesticides, fertilizers, and paints should not be disposed of with your regular trash collection because they can be hazardous. Also, these materials can leak or spill while being transported by your trash hauler and contribute to stormwater pollution of our local waterways.

Monroe County’s ecopark is a great resource for properly disposing of these hazardous materials. Visit the ecopark website for detailed information, location, hours, and to make an appointment.

The ecopark also accepts other items that can be difficult to recycle or dispose of such as electronics and pharmaceuticals.

As of January 2015, consumers may no longer dispose of certain types of electronics, such as computers and televisions, in landfills or at curbside for trash pick-up. Industry experts estimate that in the United States, consumers throw away 400 million units of electronic equipment each year. Recycling electronic waste helps prevent toxins such as lead, mercury, and cadmium from contaminating local waterways.

Unused or expired pharmaceuticals should not be disposed of down the drain. Some pharmaceuticals pass through the wastewater treatment process unaltered and are discharged into the receiving waterway (such as Lake Ontario) where they can impact water quality and harm aquatic life.

Visit the ecopark websitea> for additional information and instructions on recycling or disposing of electronics and pharmaceuticals. The site also includes the most current information about recycling or disposing of other difficult items and materials including appliances, light bulbs, batteries, and Styrofoam, as well as helpful tips for curbside recycling.

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5. Septic System Maintenance

If your home has an on-site septic system (very likely if you don't pay for sewer services as part of your local tax bill), it is important that you properly maintain your system so that sewage does not leak onto your lawn and drain to nearby waterways. As a general guideline, sceptic tanks should be pumped out every 2 or 3 years. For information about maintaining your septic system, go to Monroe County Health Dept. Septic System Care and Maintenance:

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6. Pools, Fountains, and Spas

Although it is perfectly safe to enjoy pools, fountains, and spas when their waters are treated properly, that same water in our stormwater system can become hazardous for aquatic life and our environment. Chlorine, acid, algaecides and other water treatment chemicals should be handled, stored, used and disposed of properly. Even the empty containers need proper cleaning before disposal.

When using water treatment chemicals in pools, fountains, and spas:

  • Purchase only the amount of chemical needed to do the job. If chemicals need to be stored, place in a covered, yet well-ventilated area.
  • Thoroughly read all information provided on chemical container labels.
  • Triple rinse all chemical containers, each time pouring the rinse water back into the pool, fountain, or spa. Containers are then safe for disposal in household garbage.
  • Dispose of old or unwanted chemicals only at a Household Hazardous Waste facility.

Pool backwashing is the most common maintenance activity. Backwash water can become a pollutant to our stormwater system, and draining to a storm sewer or water body is illegal if the water contains chemicals.

Some basic practices to prevent pool backwash chemicals, as well as fountain and spa wastewaters, from entering a water body include:

  • Backwash water should drain into the lawn or other landscaped area of your property. Draining slowly will allow chemicals to dissipate and prevent erosion.
  • Never drain backwash into a stream, creek, pond, or other natural water body.
  • Do not drain backwash water into the storm sewer.
  • Do not drain backwash onto driveways, sidewalks, streets, or other impervious surfaces.
  • All wastewater from acid washing should be neutralized to pH between 6.0 and 7.0 and discharged to the lawn or sanitary sewer.
  • Dispose of diatomaceous earth (DE) in the household garbage.

Draining Pools, Fountains and Spas

  • Drain your pool, fountain, or spa only when a tested sample does not detect chlorine.
  • Do not drain pools, fountains or spas down a driveway or to a storm sewer. Instead, drain slowly to the lawn or other landscaped area of your property using a low-volume pump or siphon.
  • Be aware of drainage patterns that may affect neighboring properties, especially steep slopes.
  • Winterize your pool by waiting for chlorine levels to be close to zero, draining your pool as described above, and then adding your winter treatment chemicals. Draining first reduces the amount of chemicals needed and saves money. Mix the chemicals in your pool by using a skimmer pole and brush attachment.

Download the H2O Hero Pools, Fountains and Spas… brochure.

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Rain Gardens

Create a rain garden. A rain garden is a planted depression that is designed to absorb rainwater runoff from roofs and driveways. This reduces stormwater runoff by allowing rain to soak into the ground and replenish groundwater. By reducing runoff, rain gardens help protect water quality and reduce erosion and flooding.

Install a rain barrel.

A rain barrel collects and stores rain water from your roof that would otherwise be lost to the stormwater system. A rain barrel will save most homeowners about 1,300 gallons of water during the peak summer months. Collecting and using rain water helps protect the environment and saves money and energy (decreased demand for treated tap water). Diverting water from storm drains also reduces the impact of runoff on streams and Lake Ontario.

Make a Rain Barrel for Your Home

You can reduce stormwater runoff to storm drains by collecting rainwater from your home's rooftop in a rain barrel, and then use it during drier weather conditions. This collected water can be used later on lawn or decorative garden areas, which also lowers your water bill! Using rain barrels keeps sediments and other pollutants out of the storm sewer and allows them to be treated by the vegetation and microbes within the soil. Instructions for making your own rain barrel can be found below.

Rain barrels are connected directly to a downspout on your house and collect the rainwater running off the roof. A spigot near the bottom of the rain barrel allows for connection to a garden hose, or the water can be accessed by removing the top and using a container.

To estimate the amount of rainfall coming off your roof, enter the information below. Roof measurements are estimated using the outside dimensions of your house.
Roof Area = Sq. Feet Rainfall = Inches Volume of Rainwater = Gallons

How to get involved with rain barrels:

Rain Barrel

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Upcoming H20 Hero Events and Workshops

For pictures and information about local H2O Heroes and Projects, visit Larry's Facebook Page!

Download our EcoPark Poster