Preventive action helps keep our washes clean

CO_Mammals_mule_deer2Remember that oil spill on your driveway from your leaky vehicle or the oil spill when you were pouring fresh motor oil into your car? When accumulated in runoff, pollutants such as motor oil are the leading causes of stormwater pollution. In fact, one quart of motor oil can contaminate 250,000 gallons of stormwater.

As our urban environment has expanded and added more rooftops and pavement, stormwater flows more quickly out of the urban area carrying pollutants into our washes. The accumulation of pollutants in washes, which also serve as wildlife corridors, can negatively impact wildlife habitat.

Although many of our washes are dry most of the time, that wasn’t always the case. Perhaps your grandparents tell you stories of watching the Santa Cruz river flow year round. The earliest inhabitants of the region used the precious water to support large agrarian cultures. Maintaining this valuable asset is important to future generations as well.

Action to prevent stormwater pollution is easier than the steps it takes to decontaminate later. Pima Association of Governments’ stormwater outreach program, Clean Water Starts With Me! provides the following tips on how you can prevent stormwater pollution.

Besides fixing your leaky vehicle or being more careful when changing motor oil, you may also want to consider adding contour to your landscape to help keep stormwater, soils and yard treatments on your property. Harvesting rainwater is affordable, too. Although you have the option of investing in barrels and tanks to collect rainwater, you can simply use a shovel to contour your landscape to store more water in the soils. In turn, this practice helps to nourish your vegetation and soil with rainwater. As the water is absorbed into the soil, the vegetation helps to purify it of pollutants.

The added vegetation, which can include trees, helps to cool the urban environment as well.

Another action to prevent stormwater pollution is to pick up pet droppings, which is not a safe fertilizer as some might believe. Fecal pathogens do not decompose easily. You can even encourage your kids to help clean up after your pets. This goes along with teaching kids to not litter.

Maybe you witness an illegal dumping that pollutes the desert and our washes. You have several options to report illegal dumping:

Within City of Tucson limits, call 791-5843
Within rural areas in Pima County, call 724-7400 or complete an online form at (Please be prepared with detailed information.)
If you see dumping in action, call 911 and try to get the license plate number and photos or a description of the person.

Local efforts in water conservation, water recycling and low impact design for arid regions and rainwater harvesting are placing our community on the map as leaders in sustainability. Please join in the effort. Next time it rains, notice the neighborhood greening and the wildlife emerging at the washes, and know that what you do makes a difference to help keep stormwater clean. Visit or take our online survey to learn more.