Rock in a waterway

5 Tips for Healthy Waterways This Holiday Season

We have reached the time of year when water flows in our streams and creeks again! When on walks near water sources, stop to appreciate the sight and sounds of running water. Remember, the creeks are ours to protect.

Whether you are next to a creek or miles away, your activities can have a beneficial impact on the Russian River, its creeks, and the surrounding environment (also known as the Russian River watershed). Here are five tips to promote and maintain a healthy watershed during the holiday season and beyond:

  1. Check your car for leaks. Fluids that leak from vehicles can be carried by storm water runoff all the way to our creeks! Look at your pavement and driveway after you move your car. If you see a dark patch or see a colorful sheen on the surface, you may have a leak. It is important to clean up all leaks promptly because they could be toxic to pets and wildlife. Do not hose leaked fluids into the street! Use oil absorbent or cat litter to clean up the spill. If possible, take your vehicle to a mechanic to have the leak repaired.
  1. Keep leaves out of the street. Most jurisdictions in the Russian River watershed prohibit raking leaves and other debris onto the street. Why? Anything on our streets can be carried by storm water runoff directly into our creeks, and too many leaves can obstruct the habitat and natural flow of a creek. Since storm water is not cleaned or treated before it reaches the creek, please help keep our waterways clean by either placing your leaves into the yard waste bin or consider mulching the ground with them, which will help feed the soil for a healthier yard. If you see leaves next to your curb, sweep them out of the street to prevent them from washing to the creek.
  1. Rethink holiday cooking cleanup. After cooking, when fats, oils, and grease cool, they solidify. If you pour them down your sink drain, they will harden in your pipes and may block the flow of sewage away your home! The best way to deal with fats, oils, and grease from cooking waste is to let them cool then scrape or them into the trash. Or, if you have a large amount of cooking oil, consider recycling it with the Mendocino County HazMobile Program. Sonoma County residents can view recycling drop-off locations at
  1. Correctly dispose of batteries. In California, all electronics and batteries have been banned from landfill disposal. In Mendocino County, household batteries and other household hazardous waste can be disposed through the Hazmobile Program. In Sonoma County, electronics can be donated to the Computer Recycling Center,, for repair and reuse. For a complete list of drop-off recycling options, visit
  1. Dispose of Christmas trees responsibly. If you get a Christmas tree this year, consider what you will do with it after the holidays. Plastic trees and trees with flocking must be disposed of in a landfill, but plain natural Christmas trees can be mulched and recycled. Whole trees can be dropped off at Holiday Tree Drop Off Locations, or, in some areas, picked up with your curbside recycling. You can also cut up your tree so it fits in your yard waste container – just make sure the tree is cut up so that the lid on the green bin closes completely.

For any questions about recycling and year‐round disposal options:

In Sonoma County, visit, call the Sonoma County Eco‐Desk at 565‐DESK (3375).

In Mendocino County, visit, or call the Recycling Hotline at (707) 468‐9710.


This article was authored by Rick Seanor of the City of Ukiah, on behalf of RRWA. RRWA ( 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.