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Environmental update: Prevent pollution during the rainy season

Oct 12, 2017

By Rhys Rowland

By Special to The Enterprise | From page A9

Residential landscaping can be designed like this to prevent runoff that can carry pollutants and degrade our stormwater quality. Courtesy photo

With the arrival of fall, the wet season begins in California, bringing rains that recharge your garden. When enough rain falls, it saturates the ground and creates runoff, which flows into the city’s stormwater collection system.

Runoff comes from the places where we live, shop, work and recreate. Through many of our actions, pollutants discharge from these places and degrade stormwater quality. Unlike wastewater, which is treated before being released into the environment, stormwater flows untreated to local waterways and to the Sacramento River.

Typical pollutants in stormwater include petroleum products, dirt, yard trimmings, pet wastes, trace minerals, metals, detergents, soaps, garbage and paint. Some of these items are naturally occurring in the environment. However, when our activities accidentally add these items to stormwater they often create unhealthy concentrations in water.

Downstream from Davis, Sacramento River water is used for agriculture, recreation, potable water and wildlife habitat. The city’s Stormwater Program was established to protect these uses.

The city is required to file a permit with the State Water Resources Control Board for all stormwater discharges within the city. The permit requires the city to monitor all of its activities and implement best management practices to minimize the discharge of pollutants.

Please help keep our stormwater free from pollutants with the following simple tips:

* Avoid using water to wash any outdoor surfaces down. Use a broom or another dry cleaning method whenever possible.

* When draining pool or spa water, make sure the water is clear (not green or brown), pH neutral (6.0 to 8.0) and has chlorine less than 1 part per million. You may drain without restriction to the sanitary sewer.

* Avoid washing cars at home. Use a carwash instead, as they drain used wash water to the wastewater treatment plant. If a vehicle must be washed at home, then use minimal amounts of water and direct the wastewater to a landscaped area.

* Residents should bring household hazardous waste materials to the Yolo County Landfill’s household hazardous waste drop-off program, every Friday and Saturday from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m..

* Pick up your pet wastes and dispose in the garbage.

* Keep the lid on your trash container closed when not in use to keep rainwater out.

* Limit the use of pesticides and herbicides. When using these materials follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

* Check your vehicle for leaks regularly. Have leaks repaired as soon as possible. Recycle old auto fluids — visit for details.

For more information regarding the city’s Stormwater Quality Program, visit

Fall planting and irrigation

Fall, with its shorter days and cooler temperatures, is the best time of year to plant. Landscape water needs decrease with shorter days and cooler temperatures.

As the weather cools, reduce irrigation by shortening each watering cycle or eliminate a watering day or two each week. Consider turning off your irrigation system for the winter dormant plants. If it rains, turn your irrigation system off for 48 hours after a rain event.

Reducing the amount of water you use from November through February may reduce your water and sanitary sewer bill. Sanitary sewer rates are adjusted on an annual basis, based upon your prior winter’s water use. By minimizing your winter irrigation, you can reduce your water and sewer bill.

Find more water conservation tips at

Fall plant sales

Find native, drought-tolerant, pollinator and wildlife-friendly plants at the UC Davis Arboretum’s fall plant sales on Saturdays, Oct. 21 and Nov. 4, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Master Gardeners and other professionals will be on hand to answer your gardening questions.

Visit the Public Works table to learn about the city’s environmental programs. For more information and a map, visit

— Rhys Rowland is a city of Davis environmental programs specialist; this column is published monthly. Reach him at [email protected]

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