Virginia's Rivers . . .

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riverVirginia's rivers and their tributaries are important, productive natural and recreational resources. Help them stay this way by reading about these simple ways to do your part for the commonwealth's water quality.

Start in your own home or backyard - Practice good stewardship at home. Water is a valuable commodity and conserving it can save your family money. Turn water off while brushing your teeth and repair leaks. A dripping faucet can waste 20 gallons of water a day, and a leaking toilet can waste 200! Wash cars and water lawns during off-peak hours and use a timer as a reminder for turning off water. Learn how to have environmentally friendly, healthy lawns and gardens by downloading A Virginian's Year-Round Guide to Yard Care: Tips and Techniques for Healthy Lawns and Gardens (PDF).

Change the scenery - Cut down lawn maintenance, prevent soil erosion and get better results from fertilizers by using shrubs and trees and mulched areas instead of grassed lawn space. Lawn care practices, beginning with soil testing, can have a tremendous effect on water quality if each homeowner in the commonwealth plans carefully. Using native plant varieties suited to particular climates and conditions won't require extra fertilizer or watering. A good reference is the Department of Conservation and Recreation's Natural Heritage publication Native Plants for Conservation, Restoration and Landscaping (coastal plain, piedmont and mountain versions). Contact a local nursery or garden center to ask about alternatives to lawns. Another source is a local chapter of the Virginia Society of Landscape Architects or your local Virginia Cooperative Extension office.

Follow directions - Always read labels and follow instructions for fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides to prevent excess chemicals from washing away with rainfall into storm drains. These drains lead directly to the nearest water supply. Ask for an expert's opinion about using the proper type and rate for fertilizer.

Be a pooper-scooper - Did you know that your pet's waste contributes to nonpoint source pollution? There are things you can do to take care of this nasty problem.

Car care and household chemicalsCar care and household chemicals - Keeping cars in good shape helps the environment. It's important to know that products used for your car and cleaning your house can be toxic and damage natural resources when not properly handled. Learn how to safely dispose of motor oil, antifreeze, batteries and household chemicals. Dumping chemicals down a storm drain is not practicing good stewardship. One gallon of used motor oil can pollute up to two million gallons of water. For more information, contact Virginia's Department of Environmental Quality at (804) 698-4000.

Volunteer in your community with neighbors and other concerned citizens - Clean storm drains and gutters. It may not seem like a big deal, but debris can cause problems in streams and other bodies of water. You and your neighbors can regularly clean leaves, twigs and other trash from gutters and storm drains. Dispose of this debris properly so that it doesn't lead to stream pollution (some landfills don't accept natural debris).

Become a water quality monitor - Looking for a great project for a class, a service organization or a citizens' group? You've found it. Monitoring shows what's happening in a stream or lake and how problems vary by site and situation. Results keep people aware of how activities impact their local water quality and can help communities make decisions based on good data and information.

Be a responsible park visitor - Enjoy Virginia's parks but remember to respect the outdoors. When hiking, carry a bag and pick up litter. Stay on marked trails - their locations are designed to minimize impacts to the environment such as damaged habitat and increased soil erosion. Use park-provided wood rather than fallen wood for campfires. Fallen wood is important habitat for birds, reptiles and other animals. Avoid burning paper or trash even where fires are allowed; they can release air pollutants and leave unwanted residue in the soil. Use camp stoves.

Value and conserve wetlands - Wetlands are tidal and non-tidal bogs, marshes or swamps. They provide valuable fish and wildlife habitat, help control erosion, and purify water by trapping and filtering pollutants. Be sure to contact a local wetlands board, the Virginia Marine Resources Commission or Department of Environmental Quality before beginning an activity that disturbs wetlands.

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