Good Housekeeping

In addition to plantings or devices designed to soak up the rain,  there are many things you can do to reduce the amount of runoff created and to help prevent pollutants from reaching waterbodies. Such as:

Septic System Maintenance

  • Know the location of your septic tank and leach field area. For more information, visit the Get Pumped! New Hampshire website.
  • Have your septic tank inspected yearly. If the sludge and surface scum combined are as thick as 1/3 the liquid depth of your tank, have it pumped out by a licensed septage hauler. You can find NHDES-licensed haulers in your area on the New Hampshire Association of Septage Haulers website.
  • Keep bulky items like flushable wipes, diapers, sanitary pads, cigarettes and paper towels out of the system, as they will cause clogging.
  • Keep toxic materials like paint thinners, pesticides and bleach out of your system. The chemicals could kill the good bacteria that live in your septic tank that keep it functioning.
  • Do not use septic tank additives. They could be harmful to the beneficial bacteria.
  • Repair leaking faucets and fixtures promptly to reduce the amount of water the system has to treat. For more information, see NHDES fact sheet WD-DWGB-26-23 – Home Water Efficiency: Fixing Leaks Indoors and Out.
  • Avoid putting food waste and grease into the system or using a garbage disposal. Food waste in your system requires more frequent pumping and can increase nutrient-seepage into the soils surrounding your leach field.
  • Keep deep-rooted trees and bushes away from the leach field.
  • Keep vehicles, equipment and heavy foot traffic away from the leach field to avoid compacting the soils.
  • Use alternative cleaning products, such as baking soda and borax, to avoid chlorine and strong acids that could kill the good bacteria in the septic system.

“Green” Yard Care and Landscaping

  • Reduce the square footage of your lawn area by planting low-maintenance ground-covers, trees, flowers and shrubs to help water infiltrate into the ground and prevent soil erosion.
  • For new lawns, use six to 12 inches of topsoil to encourage deeper root growth.
  • Choose native grasses and ground coverings as alternatives to conventional turf lawns on some or all of your property. Native plants have originated and evolved in your area and generally require less water, herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers and trimming.
  • Test your soil to see what it really needs before you apply fertilizer or lime (contact your county UNH Cooperative Extension office for information on soil testing).
  • When fertilizer is necessary, use a slow-release fertilizer to avoid excess nutrients running off your lawn. The New Hampshire Surface Water Quality Protection Act prohibits the use of fertilizer within 25 feet of public waters. For more information and great lawn care tips for all property owners, see NHDES fact sheet WD-SP-2 – Proper Lawn Care within the Protected Shoreline.
  • If you have an automated irrigation system, make sure it has a rain gauge or soil moisture sensor to prevent watering when it isn’t necessary – like when it is raining or immediately following a rain shower. For more information, see NHDES fact sheet WD-DWGB-26-22 – Home Water Efficiency: In-Ground Irrigation Systems.
  • Aerate your lawn to help the soil breathe and promote stronger root systems.
  • Raise and keep your lawn mower at a height of three inches.
  • Leave mulched grass clippings on your lawn to naturally fertilize and prevent evaporation, reducing the amount you need to water. Typically, this will not cause thatching.
  • Keep yard debris away from storm drains, waterbodies and wetlands. Dispose of yard waste at your local transfer station or compost in your backyard. For more information, see NHDES fact sheet WMB-SW-3 – Municipal Composting of Yard Waste.
  • Maintain natural vegetation and buffers around your property. For more information, see NHDES fact sheet WD-SP-5 – Vegetation Management for Water Quality.
  • To help prevent over-population of lawn and garden pests, consider using a variety of control tactics other than reaching for chemical pesticides. Lady bugs can be used to control aphids, for example. Pesticide use is restricted on and near public waters. For more information, see NHDES fact sheet WD-SP-3 – Integrated Pest Management: An Alternative to Pesticides.
  • Find ways to reduce phosphorus sources from your property, such as planting native vegetation along shores, stabilizing eroded areas and maintaining your septic system. When phosphorus in runoff reaches waterbodies, it can cause problems like algae and cyanobacteria blooms. See NHDES fact sheet WD-BB-20 – Phosphorus: Too Much of a Good Thing.
  • Rather than washing your driveway with a hose, which may deliver pollutants to a waterbody, sweep it or use a shop vacuum to collect yard waste and other materials.

Reduce Impervious Cover

  • Limit the amount of impervious surfaces, such as paved driveways, decks, patios and roofs created on your property.
  • Replace impervious surfaces with natural, native ground cover or materials that allow rain water to seep into the ground, such as gravel, brick, stepping stones, wood chips or other porous surfaces.
  • Direct runoff from impervious areas to porous ones. For example, direct the downspout from your roof gutter away from your driveway and instead into a vegetated area, such as a swale or garden.

Automobile Maintenance

  • Keep your vehicles (and any other motorized equipment) serviced regularly by a qualified mechanic.
  • Clean up fluid leaks with cat litter and put an absorbent rag or carpet remnant under the leak to absorb the fluid until it is fixed.
  • Handle and store gasoline and other vehicle fluids carefully to avoid spills. Clean up spills immediately with absorbent materials. For more information, see NHDES fact sheet CO-10 – Consumer Tips for the Safe Management of Gasoline.

Car Washing

  • Take your vehicle to a local car wash that recycles and reuses the wash water and uses non-toxic cleaners.
  • When washing your vehicle at home, park your car on a grassy or pervious area, use a non-toxic soap, and minimize the amount of water that you use by running the hose only when needed.
  • For more information, see NHDES fact sheet WMB-14 – Car Washes and Water Quality.

Winter Maintenance

  • Reduce the amount of salt that you apply to your driveway and walkways. A thorough shoveling or possible sweeping of snow can reduce or avoid the need for salt.
  • For business owners: hire a NH Certified Green SnowPro contractor for winter snow removal. These certified contractors are trained in the most up-to-date technology to ensure a high level of service and safety while using reduced-salt practices to protect our waterbodies from chloride pollution.
  • Use only sand to provide traction.
  • If you have multiple entrances to your home, designate one of them as the “winter entrance” and only maintain the walkway that serves that door.

Pet Waste

  • Take the time to “scoop the poop” and dispose of it properly.
  • Pick up pet waste. Flush it down the toilet, put it in the trash, or bury it in the yard at least five-inches deep and away from vegetable gardens, wells and waterways.
  • Do not put pet waste into storm drains; it can introduce bacteria to the waterbody that the storm drains leads to.
  • For more information, see the NHDES Scoop the Poop Campaign.

Lake-Friendly Living

  • Whether you live along a lake or miles from it, explore the NH LAKES “LakeSmart Program” to learn more about lake-friendly living through this free, educational, evaluation, and certification program. Learn more at LakeSmart: A Lake-Friendly Living Program.