Creek-Friendly Home Improvement and Yard Care

The days are long and warm, but many of us are anything but lazy. We are in our yards tackling our outdoor “honey-do” lists. We are refinishing our decks, painting our homes, and taming our yards. After painting the house, sanding the deck, or trimming back the landscaping it would be convenient to sweep or pour the mess into the storm drain (or gutter). The problem is that everything that enters the storm drain eventually flows into our creeks untreated. Some of the material may sit in the storm drain for a while during the summer, but when the rains come again in the fall, it will all be carried into our creeks. Our creeks are what so much wildlife calls home, and our creeks drain into the Laguna de Santa Rosa and the Russian River. Pollutants and debris from our home improvement projects can harm the fish, birds and other life that live in our creeks.

Here are some ways you can protect the water quality of our creeks while checking items off your home improvement to-do list.

Never rinse your paintbrushes under an outdoor spigot. Rinse your used paintbrushes in a sink plumbed to sewer, not outdoors. When you rinse your paintbrushes in a sink, the rinse water will be directed to the wastewater treatment plant, rather than a nearby creek. If you have any leftover paint to discard, please take it to a paint recycling location. You can find a list of paint recycling centers by visiting the following website:

Power Washing
Even biodegradable soap can be harmful to aquatic life. Use water without soap whenever possible as you power wash. Plain water ejected at high pressure is usually enough to clean surfaces. If you do use soap, be sure to direct rinse water to landscaping if possible. If the rinse water is going directly into the storm drain system, please cover the storm drain inlet, trap the rinse water, and pump it into a sewer inlet. Discharging hot water into the creeks can actually kill aquatic life, so use cool water straight from the outdoor tap.

Swimming Pools
Swimming pool and spa water contain chlorine, and chlorine harms fish and other aquatic life. If you need to empty your swimming pool or spa, drain it slowly onto a landscaped area, if possible. Otherwise, drain it into a sewer cleanout. Please plan ahead and discontinue adding chlorine, but let your pool or spa sit for at least three days without adding chlorine before discharging it so that the chlorine will dissipate. If you cannot wait two weeks to discharge, please dechlorinate the water before discharging. You can call your local public works department for information about the requirements for dechlorination and discharge of pool and spa water to your sewer.

Yard Waste
For those of us living next to a creek, it is so convenient to dump our yard waste over the back fence! It seems reasonable; yard waste is natural. Unfortunately, piles of yard waste dumped into our creeks can cause flooding and smother the existing natural vegetation. Another mistake many residents make is sweeping their yard waste into the storm drain inlet. By clogging the storm drains with yard waste, we cause flooding. Most communities in Sonoma County have green waste curbside pick-up. Even if you live next to a creek, please use those green yard waste bins.

Pesticides kill. Well, they do. The purpose of pesticide (which includes insecticides, fungicides, and herbicides) is to kill a targeted pest. Unfortunately, pesticides can also kill beneficial insects and aquatic life. Please consider alternatives to applying pesticides in your yard. There are many alternatives to pesticide use. Visit the Our Water Our World website for more information on pesticide-free pest management:  If you must use pesticides, then please apply them sparingly and never apply them within 24 hours of forecasted rain.

For more information on how to protect our creeks while fixing up your home, click on the following link:


This article was authored by Cristina Goulart of the Town of Windsor for 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.