Are You Rain Ready?

It’s autumn and time to prepare for the rainy season and winter. This time of year, is when we are thinking about raking up leaves, cleaning out rain-gutters, and undertaking some car maintenance like replacing wiper blades and changing the anti-freeze. But did you know you can also help protect our local creeks, communities and environment? With the coming rains, anything we spill, drop, throw, or store on the ground can be washed off by storm water and directly enters a creek or river, without treatment, having a toxic effect on fish and wildlife and people. Polluted runoff can come from a variety of sources – oil and grease from pavement; trash and pet waste from our yards or parks; fertilizers and pesticides from lawns or gardens; sediment from construction activities; and improperly stored loose materials like garden mulch or topsoil.

A good rule of thumb to remember is “Only rain down the storm drain” as almost everything else can become a pollutant and it is unlawful to put anything into the storm drains but storm water. Below are some ways that you can be rain ready and help reduce pollution in our waterways. It costs less to prevent pollution and flooding than to clean up the creeks or neighborhoods.  Let’s all do our part!

Rain Ready Solutions

  • Dispose of pet waste in a trash container.
  • Pick up leaf litter and yard clippings around your home to compost or put in your yard waste container.
  • Sweep up your driveways and sidewalks rather than hose them down into the street gutter. “Sweep Up the Street Gutter” in front of your residence placing the trash and yard waste into the correct bins.
  • If you store garden products (soil, mulch, or compost), gas-powered garden equipment, or chemicals such as pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizer, make sure they are securely covered, and avoid applying chemicals if rain is in the forecast.
  • Turn down your irrigation system run times during the dry fall months and turn your system off once the rains begin. Even during dry periods of the winter months, plants need little or no water.
  • Use a commercial car wash, which recycles water and keeps soapy water out of the storm drain. If you wash your car at home, do it on a lawn and dispose of buckets of soapy and rinse water in the sink.
  • Clean out your pickup truck bed, and secure items hauled in or on top of your vehicle. Random trash left in the back of your pickup can easily blow out onto the street and end up in the creek.
  • Fix all car leaks. Oil, antifreeze and other harmful chemicals can drip onto streets, parking lots and driveways and then wash off into creeks. These products should only be disposed of at a household hazardous waste collection facility. For Sonoma County residents, see recyclenow.org or call the Sonoma County Eco Desk (707 565-DESK (3375)). For Mendocino residents, see www.mendorecycle.org or call (707) 468-9704 for more information.

Another area of major concern for the next several years is the number of vacant lots or those under construction in burn areas. Sediment is a pollutant in our creeks as much as the other examples listed in this article. The property owners and contractors are responsible to protect their lots to prevent polluted discharges to the street gutter and storm drain systems, to keep clean rain water clean.  Some common examples include meshed straw waddles around a lots perimeter, a contained wash-out area for concrete or paint, plastic sheets over stockpiles, and sweeping the street frontage daily help to keep sediment from reaching the storm drain. These protection measures, commonly called Best Management Practices (BMPs), are temporary and need to be maintained frequently to work properly, especially during frequent winter rains. Erosion Control information can be found on the following websites:

We are all a part of neighborhoods, community, and the incredible environment we call home.  One last way to support our home is to Report Spills or polluted discharges to the storm drain system (streets, inlets, pipes, ditches, and creeks). Report hazardous or unknown spills to 911. Report non-hazardous spills based on where you are in the watershed.

  • Cloverdale     707.894.2526
  • Cotati             707.665.3605
  • Healdsburg   707.431.7000
  • Rohnert Park  707.588.3300/after-hours 707.584.2600
  • Santa Rosa      707.543.3800/after-hours 707.543-3805
  • Sebastopol      707.823.5331/after-hours 707.829.4400
  • Unincorporated County of Sonoma 707.5.1900
  • Windsor          707.838.1006/after-hours 707.838.1000
  • Ukiah              707.463.6288
  • Unincorporated Mendocino County 707.234.6679
This article was authored by Forest L. Frasieur, of Santa Rosa Water, on behalf of RRWA. RRWA (rrwatershed.org) is an association of local public agencies in the Russian River Watershed that have come together to coordinate regional programs for clean water, habitat restoration, and watershed enhancement.