6 Ways You Can Protect Your Drinking Water

Some Pennsylvanians live in town, some Pennsylvanians live in the country, but all Pennsylvanians live in a watershed. A watershed is an area of land where all the water flows toward the lowest point, usually a stream, lake, or river. The watershed then eventually drains into larger bodies of water, such as the Chesapeake Bay and Lake Erie.

There are over 15,000 miles of streams and rivers impaired in Pennsylvania. Agricultural, business, and residential development have changed Pennsylvania’s landscape, replacing natural areas with hard surfaces such as compacted soil, parking lots, roads, and roofs. Rainfall that would naturally soak into the ground and be absorbed by tree and vegetation roots now “runs off” these hard surfaces. This stormwater runoff carries pollutants from these surfaces into streams, rivers, and lakes. Pollutants include: 

  • nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) from manure and other crop fertilizers
  • sediment (eroded dirt)
  • vehicle fluids and other toxic contaminants
  • lawn fertilizers and pesticides
  • road salt
  • viruses and bacteria from pet waste or faulty septic systems
  • cigarette butts and other litter

6 Ways You Can Reduce Runoff Pollution to Protect Your Drinking Water

For more tips, check out the Stormwater Homeowners Guide.

  1. Take a more natural approach to your yard. Use less lawn fertilizer and plant a rain garden with native plants to reduce the amount of stormwater running off your property. Never apply fertilizers before a rainstorm as much of it will be washed into nearby storm drains. Consider using organic fertilizers.
  2. Maintain your vehicles and fix leaks. Always recycle or properly dispose of products that contain chemicals. Never dispose of chemicals in the lawn or storm drain. Cumberland County has a Household Hazardous Waste Program (HHWP) that’s offered four times a year at their Cumberland County Recycling Center, 1001 Claremont Road, Carlisle, PA. Appointments are required and a fee of $0.55/lb will be charged. Find more details and sign up. In 2024, the HHWP events will be:
  3. Never dump anything down a storm drain.
  4. Take your vehicle to the car wash. If you wash your car at home, wash it on your lawn, not in the street or your driveway.
  5. Drive less, and take a bus, carpool, bike or walk.
  6. Pick up after your pet. Pet waste can be a source of bacteria and can lead to contamination of our waterways.