Did you know that fertilizers contain nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus, which have a negative impact on the health and water quality of our local streams and the Chesapeake Bay? Plants can only utilize a certain amount of fertilizer, and the excess fertilizer washes away with the rain into neighborhood streams. Pesticides and herbicides used on lawns can wash off in the same manner. These chemicals indiscriminately kill beneficial plants and aquatic animals in our streams, the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay.

Green Thumb Tips
  • Before applying fertilizer, test your soil. You may not need to fertilize! Contact your local extension office for a soil test kit.

  • Fall is the best time to fertilize. Always read the instructions on the bag.

  • Avoid using chemicals in your yard. Keep it healthy for you, your family and your pets!

  • Try composting! Composting is a great way to recycle trimmings from your yard, and you can use the mulch to enrich your soil and feed your plants.

  • Leave your clippings. After mowing your lawn, leave the lawn clippings on the grass as free fertilizer. Do not blow clippings into the street or sidewalks where they can be washed into storm drains.

  • Use native plants. Native plants are adapted to the local climate and thrive in our local conditions without fertilizers and chemicals. They help feed local wildlife too!

  • Recycle your rainwater! Direct your downspouts to your garden beds to take advantage of the runoff from your house. Collect some of the water in a rain barrel or cistern.

Visit Plant NOVA Natives for more information on choosing native plants for your landscape!


Talk to Your Contractor About Preventing Pollution
  • Ask your contractor how and where they plan to rinse their equipment. or dispose of leftover materials. Provide access to a utility sink if needed to ensure that wash water will not run off the property and down a storm drain.

  • Ask your contractor where they will dispose of leftover materials, debris and trash. Ensure that items that can blow away or be washed away are covered and secured so that they cannot be blow or washed down a storm drain.

  • If your project will disturb the soil, cover the area with hay or mulch when work is finished for the day, or before rain to prevent erosion.

  • Work materials such as concrete, paint or dirt, should never be left where they can wash or be blown into the road and down the storm drain.


Home Maintenance 

The chemicals and other products we use for car and home maintenance – if disposed of improperly – can cause damage to the environment and to our community. The key to keeping our community and environment healthy is by properly disposing of these pollution sources. Avoid accidental pollution discharges by following the tips below.

Pesticides and Fertilizers
  • Fertilize in the fall!

  • Avoid applying pesticides and fertilizers when rain is predicted.

  • Use non-toxic alternatives when possible, such as compost.

Washing Your Car
  • Take your car to a commercial car wash. Commercial car washes send their dirty water to a waste water treatment plant.

Changing Your Oil
  • Check your car for oil leaks on a regular basis. Place a piece of cardboard under the car and check it after a few hours.

  • If you find a leak, take your car to a shop to prevent oil from running into the storm drain.

  • Dispose of used motor oil at your local household hazardous waste disposal site.

  • Never dispose of your paints or stains down the drain. Either take it to a collection site or mix it into a solid and dispose of it in the trash.

  • When painting your house - or anything outside - make sure to pick up any paint chips that may get carried into a nearby storm drain.

Paints and Stains
  • Never dispose of your paints or stains down the drain. Either take it to a collection site or mix it into a solid and dispose of it in the trash.

  • When painting your house - or anything outside - make sure to pick up any paint chips that may get carried into a nearby storm drain.

Household Hazardous Waste
  • Avoid hazardous waste by purchasing non-hazardous or the least hazardous products.

  • When using products that contain hazardous materials is unavoidable, make sure to take your waste to the proper drop-off locations near you.


Here in Northern Virginia, we love our dogs and clean water, too.  We can have both if dog owners are responsible and clean up after their pets.

Did you know that pet waste can harbor harmful germs and bacteria such as E. coli, Salmonella and Fecal Coliform?  Pet waste also contains nutrients that deplete the oxygen that fish and other aquatic life need to live.  Pet waste left on the ground allows these germs and bacteria to be washed into streams, creeks and water supplies by rain and snow melt.

Simple Ways to Love Your Pet and the Environment
  • Always clean up after your pet. Dog droppings in parks, on the street and even in your garden can all end up polluting our streams. It may not be the most pleasant chore, but cleaning up after your dog can prevent water pollution and it’s the law. Encourage other pet owners to pick up, too!

  • Dispose of pet waste properly. Bag it and place pet waste in the trash.

  • Never dispose of pet waste in a storm drain. These drains lead directly to local waterways.

Activities of the Clean Water Partners are managed by the Northern Virginia Regional Commission on their behalf.

Questions or comments can be sent to