Waukesha County

What causes water pollution?

Runoff happens when rain or snowmelt flows across pavement or soil to the nearest lake, river or stream. Runoff picks up a variety of pollutants, such as oil, gas, fertilizers, animal waste, grass clippings, pesticides and lots more. Dirty runoff then goes into the storm drain and is delivered to the nearest lake, stream, or river. Storm drains are not connected to the sewage treatment plant. This water is not treated or cleaned in any way.
This polluted runoff causes many problems in our waters.  The biggest problem is the excessive growth of weeks and algae.  Weed harvesters are a common sight on local lakes and algae blooms, including the dangerous blue-green algae, are becoming more common.

What can we do?

Since water pollution comes from runoff that happens everywhere, we can all lend a hand to stopping pollution from entering our water. Here are a few simple actions you can take:

  • Wash the car on the lawn or at a car wash. This keeps dirty, soapy water from running down the street into the storm drains and into our waterways.
  • Pick up after your dog. Pet waste is becoming one of the leading sources of bacteria in our waters. Waste should be flushed down the toilet, buried in the yard, placed into a pet waste composter, or put into the garbage.
  • Sweep grass clippings off the driveway, sidewalk, curb or other paved areas. Grass clippings add nutrients to our waters resulting in excessive weed growth and algae bloom.
  • Keep leaves out of the gutter. Rake them alongside the curb and cover them if pick-up day is several days away. Leaves also add nutrients causing the same problems as grass clippings and other natural materials.
  • Limit chemical and fertilizer use. Test your soil so you know what is needed. Use only the amounts directed on the label - never more. More becomes an easy target for runoff and usually ends up in our waters.
  • Sweep fertilizers off the driveway, sidewalk, curb or other paved areas and back into the yard. Any fertilizer left on pavement will quickly be picked up by moving water and moved into our waterway
  • Direct downspouts to the lawn instead of the driveway. This simple task will reduce the amount of runoff that gets into our storm drains. Reduced runoff results in reduced runoff pollution!
  • Add a rain barrel (or two) to capture runoff and prevent it from delivering pollutants.
  • Install a rain garden to soak roof runoff into the ground.