Residential Runoff Practices to Reduce Polluted Runoff from Your Property

Home and yard areas offer significant opportunities for residents to implement practices to control erosion, conserve water, improve filtering and buffer areas, promote wildlife, and treat polluted runoff.  Financial incentives may be available! More info

Rain Barrels

Rain barrels are an easy way to collect some rainwater that runs off rooftops. Rebates may be available! More info

Standard rain barrels can collect and store about 55 gallons. Several can be hooked together to expand capacity, or larger containers can be used. These may be installed at each downspout of a guttered building.  The City of Charlottesville and the Albemarle County Service Authority may offer rebates to homeowners who install rain barrels. Or if you are interested in a larger collection system, financial assistance for cisterns (250 gallons or greater) may be available through the VCAP Program (click here for more information, and contact the TJSWCD to apply).

Rain Gardens

How to construct a small, residential scale rain garden

Manage Pet Waste

When rainwater flows over areas containing pet waste, the runoff carries nutrients, bacteria, and other pollutants from your pets’ waste into local streams, water supplies, and eventually into the Chesapeake Bay. More info

In addition to the environmental impacts of pet waste, children who play outside are at risk of infection from bacteria and parasites found in pet waste. Dog waste can spread infections such as campylobacteriosis, salmonellosis, roundworms, tuberculosis, gastroenteritis, giardiasis, and cryptosporidiosis.

Follow these simple tips to minimize the environmental and health risks of pet waste:

  • Always clean up after your pet.
  • Never dispose of pet waste down a storm drain.
  • Bag dog waste and place it in the trash or take it home and flush it down a toilet.
  • Encourage other pet owners to be responsible.

Click on the following posters if you would like to print and display them to increase awareness of the impacts of pet waste on our waterways:






Maintain Septic Systems

When septic systems are not functioning correctly, they can contribute to the contamination of groundwater, streams and other bodies of water. More info

A septic system is an efficient, self-contained, underground wastewater treatment system typically used for individual homes. Such systems use natural processes to treat wastewater, and when properly sited, constructed and managed, are effective in protecting human health and the environment, while also avoiding large transfers of water from one watershed to another, that can occur with large centralized systems.

However, when septic systems are not functioning correctly, they can contribute to the contamination of groundwater, streams and other bodies of water. Wastewater from septic systems may contain many potential pollutants including nitrates, bacteria, viruses, metals and chemicals. Various geologic conditions, such as fractured bedrock and/or shallow groundwater tables, may allow pollutants to be transported very rapidly to streams and nearby drinking water supplies.

How to maintain a septic system
  • Have your septic tank inspected and pumped out by a professional every 3 to 5 years, depending on the number of people in your household, the amount of wastewater generated per person (based on the amount of water used), and the volume of solids in the wastewater (e.g., using a garbage disposal will increase the amount of solids).
  • Do not drive over the septic system absorption field with cars, trucks or heavy equipment.
  • Do not allow trees or shrubbery to grow in the absorption field since roots can grow into the lines and clog them.
  • Do not cover the absorption field with hard surfaces, such as concrete or asphalt. Grass is the best cover to prevent erosion and help remove excess water.
  • Divert as much surface runoff water as possible away from the absorption field.
  • Avoid using garbage disposals
  • The following items should never be flushed down drains or toilets:
    • hair combings
    • coffee grounds
    • disposable diapers
    • condoms
    • dental floss
    • sanitary napkins
    • kitty litter
    • tampons
    • cigarette butts
    • gauze bandages
    • paper towels
    • fat, grease or oil
How does a septic system work?

A septic system consists of two main parts – a septic tank and a drainfield. The septic tank is a watertight box, usually made of concrete or fiberglass, with an inlet and outlet pipe. Wastewater flows from the home to the septic tank through a sewer pipe. The septic tank treats the wastewater naturally by holding it in the tank long enough for solids and liquids to separate. The wastewater forms three layers inside the tank. Solids lighter than water (such as greases and oils) float to the top, forming a layer of scum. Solids heavier than water settle at the bottom of the tank, forming a layer of sludge. This leaves the middle layer of partially clarified wastewater.

The layers of sludge and scum remain in the septic tank, where bacteria found naturally in the wastewater work to break the solids down. The sludge and scum that cannot be broken down are retained in the tank until the tank is pumped. The layer of clarified liquid flows from the septic tank to the drainfield.

A standard drainfield (also known as a leachfield, disposal field or a soil absorption system) consists of a series of trenches lined with gravel or course sand, and buried one to three feet below the ground surface. Perforated pipes run through the trenches to distribute the wastewater, allowing it to slowly trickle from the pipes onto the gravel and down through the soil, which acts as a biological filter.

Click here for a printable brochure of useful septic system information.


Use Best Practices for Lawn Care & Landscaping

The same rain that helps turn your lawn green and maintain your beautiful landscape plants and flowers also washes excess fertilizers, pesticides, and other pollutants into the nearest creek, turning the water green, or worse. Much of it makes its way downstream to the Chesapeake Bay. More info

Man mowing lawnKeep your natural areas green and our waters blue by following these best practices for lawns and landscaped areas:

  • Plant Natives.
    Native plants grow naturally and thrive in the region where they evolved, based on regional characteristics such as soils, moisture, sunlight, temperatures, and the other plant and animal species in the region. This makes them particularly well-suited for landscaping, restoration, and even livestock forage. In addition to having natural resistance to local diseases and insects, and needing less fertilizer and extra watering, native plants also help to maintain the unique ecological characteristics of an area, support the habitat needs of pollinators and local wildlife, and protect our water resources by conserving water and stabilizing. To learn more about regional native plants, click here.
  • Manage soil nutrients and fertilizer use by testing soil
    Fertilizer consists of plant nutrients that help plants grow and reproduce. If more fertilizer is used than the plants can take up, the excess fertilizer washes off lawns and gardens into streams, rivers and other bodies of water. There, these nutrients feed naturally occurring algae, leading to massive algae blooms, particularly during the warm summer months. These increases in the algae population turn the water green, shutting out sunlight needed by bottom-growing plants. As plants and algae decay, they use up the oxygen needed by fish, oysters, crabs and other aquatic creatures. To avoid the over-application of fertilizer (helping the environment and saving money), have your soil tested to determine how much, and what type of, fertilizer you really need to apply. Virginia Tech, through the Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE) will test your soil for $7.00. In Albemarle County and the City of Charlottesville, VCE can be contacted at (434) 872-4580. For more information on soil testing, click here.
  • Apply fertilizer in the fall when it is most beneficial to cool season grasses and least likely to end up in runoff.
  • Avoid leaving fertilizer on hard surfaces such as sidewalks and driveways where they are most likely to be washed into a storm drain, where it will end up in a stream. Sweep fertilizer off hard surfaces onto the lawn or into the garden.
  • Avoid applying fertilizer just before a rain storm.
  • Use all lawn care products (fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, etc.) as instructed on the product labels. Less is always more when it comes to water quality.
  • Avoid applying any lawn care products near drainage ditches, storm sewers, or waterways.
  • When mowing your lawn, don’t cut the grass too short. Leaving grass at least 2 or 3 inches tall is best for the health of a lawn. Keeping it even longer helps prevent erosion, filters out pollutants that can be washed into storm drains and streams, and keeps it healthier during the drier and hotter days of summer.
  • Leave grass clippings on the lawn to reduce the need for fertilizer and reduce the amount of waste disposed of in landfills.

Check out the following resources for lawn and garden care:

Read Your Weeds: A Simple Guide to Creating a Healthy Lawn – Complete with a chart of various weeds that can help you diagnose any  deficiencies affecting your lawn, this pdf document discusses the most common problems and the best way to solve them in an environmentally friendly manner.

A Virginian’s Year Around Guide to Lawn Care (3.3 MB) Tips and techniques for healthy gardens. Published by the Department of Conservation and Recreation and the Chesapeake Bay Program.

Some posters for spreading the word about best lawn care practices:

Vehicle Washing, Maintenance, & Repair

Vehicles contain a wide variety of highly toxic substances, including gasoline, motor oil, brake fluid, transmission fluid, anti-freeze and heavy metals, presenting a high potential for pollution of local water resources. More info

Anyone who owns a car or truck, knows that it must be maintained and repaired once in a while. Vehicles contain a wide variety of highly toxic substances, including gasoline, motor oil, brake fluid, transmission fluid, anti-freeze and heavy metals, presenting a high potential for pollution of local water resources. Most local vehicle service centers are aware of their responsibility to keep potential pollutants out of the stormdrain system and they have instituted good workplace practices with that purpose in mind. However, every year in the U.S., millions of gallons of used motor oil, chemicals, and other wastes are disposed of illegally – down a storm drain or in the trash.   Whether you are a “do-it-yourselfer” or you use commercial service centers, the following information will help us all minimize pollution related to our vehicle.

Vehicle Repair and Maintenance Info:
Used Motor Oil
  • Did you know 1 quart of motor oil can contaminate 250,000 gallons of water? Pouring motor oil down a storm drain will send it directly into streams, rivers and reservoirs, making that water unfit for drinking and recreational uses such as swimming and fishing.
  • Disposing of oil by pouring it on the ground can result in similar contamination of ground water and local wells.
  • Used motor oil should always be recycled. The Rivanna Solid Waste Authority accepts motor oil (and antifreeze) at the Material Utilization Center in Ivy. Also, check with an oil change service or auto parts or repair shop, as most recycle motor oil free of charge.
Vehicle Washing

Ever wonder where all that water goes after it runs off your driveway? This water does not get treated and carries pollutants such as oil, detergents, and cleansers into storm drains where it flows directly into local streams and eventually reaches the Chesapeake Bay. To help keep our water clean, consider using biodegradable cleaning products, and wash your car on the lawn instead of the driveway. Even better, take your car to a carwash facility that recycles its wash water.

Vehicle Washing Info: