Clean Water Starts With Me
Keeping our desert waterways clean starts with you. Every year, during the monsoon season, it is easy for stormwater runoff to pick up pollutants, such as grease, fertilizer, pesticide and trash, along the way and to deposit the contaminants in our fragile desert washes.
Learn how you can help protect the environment as a conscious commuter, neighbor, citizen or business by reading the following tips and applying them in your everyday lifestyle.
(Click on the topics below for more details, or here
to show all details)
(Click on the topics below for more details, or here
to hide all details)
- Keep your vehicle leak free
Check your parking area regularly for drips and stains, and take your vehicle in for regular maintenance to ensure that it will not leak. This will not only reduce stormwater pollution, but it will increase the life of your vehicle. If you notice a leak, have it fixed immediately and clean up any drips or spills. Our streets are our stormwater conveyance system in Tucson, so everything on them gets picked up and eventually deposited in the natural water courses.
- Properly dispose of oil and automotive fluids
- Use commercial car washes
When you wash your car in a driveway, dirty water and soap end up in storm drains and then desert washes. Commercial car washes collect dirty water and send it to wastewater treatment facilities, which remove hazardous chemicals and then reclaim the water for turf.
- Use alternative transportation
Biking, walking, carpooling, or riding the bus reduces vehicle use and will reduce pollution at the source. Sun Rideshare and Sun Tran are great transportation alternatives.
- Don’t litter
Throw your own trash into the garbage and help pick up litter in your neighborhood. Be a good example and don’t be a litter bug.
- Pick up after your pets
Pick up where your dog left off. Recent studies show that bacteria are a leading concern in Tucson’s stormwater, and the source of the majority of those bacteria…our dogs!! Pick up where your dog left off. Scoop the poop! (pdf)
Dog droppings, even if properly composted into soil, doesn't make safe fertilizer for food crops. If you are interested in composting dog dropping, make sure you use these tips to handle the concerns specific to pet pathogens.
- Practice good horse keeping
When not managed properly, horse manure can pollute the environment as ground or surface water pollution, affect the health of horses and caretakers, promote unwanted insect breeding, and become a nuisance to neighbors by generating excessive odors and flies. For more info click here.
- Harvest rainwater
By contouring your yard to capture rain where it falls, you can reduce erosion and the spread of yard chemicals or other mobile pollutants. It also helps slow runoff so that peak flood flows are reduced and water is conserved since more water can seep into your plants’ root zone.
Vegetation (including trees, shrubs and grasses) planted in or near your rainwater harvesting basins captures sediments and pesticides in runoff, as well as large amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus, which are pollutants to waterways. Vegetation additionally helps stormwater runoff travel slowly and store water in soils. The deep root systems of trees and shrubs absorb stormwater and stabilize soil to reduce erosion. Try water harvesting(PDF) at your home
- Report Illegal Dumping
- Clean up litter in the community
Be a positive example for other members of your community and help pick up litter. Bring a trash bag with you during your neighborhood stroll or get a group together to adopt a park, street or wash.
- Plant trees
Planting trees in your yard can help to reduce erosion, with the added benefit of beautifying and shading your home to reduce energy use! You may qualify for low-cost trees for your home, community or school through Trees for Tucson.
- Keep company vehicles and parking lots free of leaking fluids
Make sure that company vehicles are not leaking oil or automotive fluids. If you notice a spill in your parking lot, cover with kitty litter for one to two days, or until all liquid is absorbed. Collect the kitty litter in a bag and dispose of it at a hazardous waste facility. Do not dispose of the chemicals in the trash.
- Do not clean equipment outside near stormdrains
Clean all equipment over a drain which leads to the sanitary sewer. If equipment is washed outside, soap, oil and other hazardous chemicals can flow into stormdrains which are directed to our desert washes.
- Store chemicals appropriately
Make sure all chemicals are stored in appropriate containers so they will not leak. Store these containers in an area sheltered from rainfall.
- Use landscape chemicals sparingly
Only apply fertilizers and pesticides as directed, and avoid using them three days before rain is forecasted.
- Harvest rainwater
In 2010, a Commercial Rainwater Harvesting Ordinance took effect in Tucson and a new Landscape Code took effect in Oro Valley. Both aim to reduce landscape water use in new commercial developments by 50 percent. While the Tucson ordinance requires rainwater harvesting to account for the entire 50 percent, the Oro Valley code requires rainwater harvesting in combination with other water saving measures, such as the use of approved drought-tolerant plants, to account for the water savings. Rainwater harvesting is also a best management practice that helps development sites comply with state AZPDES (Arizona Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) requirements.
Even if your property was developed before the ordinance took effect, you can still benefit from rainwater harvesting. Earthworks are easy and inexpensive to install, and they will reduce your water bill during rainy seasons. You also can capture and store rainwater in cisterns. Cisterns are more expensive to install, but captured rainwater also can be used indoors for non-potable uses, such as flushing toilets.
- Pick up trash on your property
Be a good example for other businesses and pick up any trash you find on your property.
- Keep dumpsters closed and leak free
On windy days, trash can blow out of open trash containers. Rain can also turn dumpsters into a disgusting garbage soup. By closing dumpster lids, you can keep stormwater clean and avoid a nasty mess.
Be sure to recycle as much as possible. The less you throw in the trash, the less likely waste materials will make it into stormdrains and washes. Even cooking grease can be recycled to produce valuable biodiesel.
- Follow stormwater protocols at construction sites
Click here to learn how the construction industry can help prevent stormwater pollution.
Take the Clean Water Survey!
Spend a few brief minutes telling us what you know about stormwater pollution and the importance of clean water.
- Clean Water Survey - Click here
- Find your local contact for presentations and questions on stormwater: PDF or Word
To report environmental concerns, call 724-7400 or complete this online form. Please be prepared with detailed information. Guidance is available here.
Common Stormwater Pollutants
Stormwater pollution occurs when stormwater runoff washes away loose sediment, chemicals, trash, pet waste or other pollutants. This water ends up in desert washes, basins or it can seep underground and adversely affect our fragile desert environment.
The following everyday products and materials can pollute our stormwater.
(Click on the pollutants for more details, or here to show all details)
(Click on the pollutants for more details, or here to hide all details)
- Oil and engine fluids
Oil and grease left on roads and driveways is washed away during rain and flood events. These chemicals are highly toxic to desert plants and animals. It only takes four quarts, or about one oil change, of used motor oil to foul 1 million gallons of water.
- Soap and residues from car washing
When you wash your car in a driveway, dirty water and soap ends up in storm drains or desert washes, bringing pollutants with it. Soap and vehicle residues can severely damage fragile desert ecosystems.
During storms, rainwater carries litter from our streets and sidewalks into storm drains and desert washes. This can plug storm drains and harm the plants and animals which make our desert environment so unique and beautiful. Litter causes toxicity as it breaks down and can suffocate turtles, birds and other aquatic life.
- Pet waste
Pet waste may contain harmful bacteria or parasites that can last up to 10 years. If these organisms get into our stormwater, they can spread disease to wildlife, other pets, and even people.
- Household hazardous wastes and products
Household hazardous wastes include leftover cooking oil, paint, batteries, drain openers, and much more. If these are improperly used, stored, or disposed of, they can be released into stormwater and cause great environmental harm. For information about household chemicals, see EPA's Web site on non-point source pollution.
As rainwater flows across land, it picks up fertilizers and carries them to storm drains, which lead to desert washes. Nutrients from fertilizers feed algae blooms, which can clog pipes and create an unpleasant landscape. When the algae die and decompose, the oxygen level in the water drops, killing aquatic organisms.
- Pesticides, herbicides and insecticides
These chemicals are designed to kill a variety of pests. During storms, rainwater washes these chemicals from plants and the soil. When pesticides are released into the environment, they can kill or severely harm native plants, animals and insects.
- Yard waste
Throwing away green wastes (leaves, tree branches, other green wastes) in the yard, in streets, over the fence, or in washes and alleys can add to stormwater pollution and clog storm drains.
- Eroded Soil
Erosion caused by construction and other activities introduces fine sediments that clog the sensitive habitat for amphibians. Fertilizers, pesticides, or other chemicals in the soil are carried along with it and can accumulate in the tissues of organisms and be highly toxic in aquatic environments.
Since dispersed pollutants are a leading concern in stormwater pollution, creating a healthy environment depends on each household and business doing its part to reduce contaminants. Pima Association of Governments’ Stormwater Management Working Group conducts a multi-media outreach campaign during the monsoon season annually to share awareness about the importance of preventing stormwater runoff from carrying contaminants to our fragile desert washes.
The campaign, called “Clean Water Starts With Me” also helps member jurisdictions meet regulatory requirements, keeping stormwater quality safe for people and wildlife alike. A shared message is important for addressing regional stormwater issues within the watershed in Pima County.
Look for Clean Water Starts With Me on billboards, bus ads, local magazines, scoop the poop stickers and movie theater ads. On Facebook, you can follow posts about current events and other related entertaining information. PAG has distributed nearly 50,000 English and Spanish brochures since the program started in 2005. Our TV and radio ads reach approximately 800,000 people in the Tucson region annually.
The Working Group also conducts a seminar targeted to the construction industry. The seminar gives the construction industry an opportunity to learn about the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) permitting process, allowable and non-allowable discharges, best management practices for arid regions, and a chance to discuss stormwater issues with jurisdictional representatives.
This new guide, which folds up to fit in your pocket, illustrates a comprehensive approach to understanding and protecting our watershed. The graphic on the front provides a practical guide to stormwater pollution prevention and explains how water can pick up pollution as it flows to the fragile desert waterways. This map on the flip side provides a 3D birds-eye view of our region to help the reader get to know, explore, understand the water system and to reduce our human impact within the watershed. The guide integrates watershed and natural heritage awareness with proactive ideas about how people can restore our vital natural resources. Available at your public library or through PAG.
This PAG Watershed Guide is a new outreach product created by PAG's Watershed Planning Program.
LID Case Studies Inventory Map
Pima County Regional Flood Control District and the Low Impact Development Working Group created an inventory of award winning case study sites in the region that demonstrate excellence in designs that heal the watershed. Designs photos, costs and summaries are available in their inventory at pima.gov
Create your own self guided tour! PAG created a LID Case Studies map which can be viewed through Avenza PDF Maps, an offline map viewer for your mobile device. Import the free Tucson Bikeways map to display your live GPS location.
1. Download the free App
2. Copy URL: http://www.pagregion.com/LIDMap
3. Open PDF Maps app and go to Maps. Click on “+" to import map
4. Paste URL to “From the Web” to import LID Case Studies Inventory Map. Enjoy!
Get to Know Your Neighborhood Wash: They Are Ours to Protect!
One of the goals of "Clean Water Starts With Me!" is to aid the community stewardship of our valuable desert waterways. Click on the map to learn the names and locations of our local watersheds and nearest desert rivers. Share your knowledge with your neighbors to help decrease pollutant stress on our stormwater quality.
These maps were produced by TerraSystems Southwest for Watershed Management Group, using data from Pima County and the City of Tucson.
Campaign Awards & Accomplishments
The “Clean Water Starts With Me” campaign has received the following recognition:
- PAG contributed materials from the campaign to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Non-Point Source Outreach Toolbox as sample materials to help other communities develop effective targeted outreach campaigns for stormwater pollution prevention.
- The campaign received a first-place award at the 2009 National Association of Flood and Stormwater Agencies’ (NAFSMA) conference. The “Excellence in Communication Award” was in the “Improvement in Water Quality” category. PAG coordinated with the Town of Oro Valley to submit the outreach program, which promotes stormwater pollution prevention. On Oct. 22, 2009, the Town accepted the trophy on behalf of PAG. NAFSMA represents more than 100 public agencies that conduct stormwater and flood management activities. The City of Tucson and Town of Oro Valley are members.
Activities for Children
Find your local contact for presentations and questions on stormwater: PDF or Word
Clean Water Starts With Me - 2013 Partners
Pima Association of Governments is collaborating with these partners to increase awareness of the impact that stormwater pollution has on our desert watershed health. These partners compliment our outreach by providing on the ground opportunities to help make a difference.
The City of Tucson/Pima County Household Hazardous Waste program is managed by the City of Tucson Environmental Services Department. HHW conducts monthly collections on the 1st Saturday of each month, 8 a.m. to noon, at Eastside City Hall, 7575 E. Speedway Blvd. and also conducts a mobile collection on the 2nd Saturday of each month, 8 a.m. to noon. Visit www.tucsonaz.gov/hhw for monthly information.
The main HHW site is located at 2440 W. Sweetwater Drive, Tucson, and is open from 8 a.m. to noon on Friday and Saturday. The service is free to residents of the City of Tucson and unincorporated Pima County. Residents of Oro Valley, Marana and Sahuarita will be charged a $5 fee.
The Los Reales Landfill site is located at 5300 E. Los Reales Road and is open 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday.
Several landfills throughout the region are also open more days of the week. They accept a smaller selection of HHW items limited to Antifreeze, Batteries, Oil, and Paint and are open 3-6 days a week. For more information about these ABOP sites please visit the HHW web site.
For more information, visit www.tucsonaz.gov/hhw
Tucson Clean & Beautiful is an incorporated 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization with a variety of programs designed to improve our local environment in a cost-effective and socially responsible manner. Volunteer groups may Adopt-a-Street or Adopt-a-Wash through TCB’s Adopt a Park & Public Areas program. Over 700 streets, parks and washes are available. To learn more about adopting a street, wash or park, call (520) 837-6834 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tucson Clean & Beautiful also runs the Trees for Tucson program to provide low cost shade trees program for your home, neighborhood, school or other public space. Over 80,000 trees have distributed since the Trees for Tucson program began in 1989 providing benefits such as stormwater runoff capture, erosion control, energy conservation, urban heat island mitigation, and improved habitat for wildlife and people alike. Find out how you may qualify for a discounted tree and plant it using rainwater harvesting techniques here: http://www.treesfortucson.org/
For more information, visit www.tucsoncleanandbeautiful.org
Watershed Management Group
PAG is partnering with Watershed Management Group (http://watershedmg.org/) to connect with community–based, on-the-ground projects in Green Infrastructure. WMG offers workshops to learn how to build earthworks, a co-op program for discounted projects, opportunities to join neighborhood green streets projects, and access to free resources, such as rebate and grant opportunities and guidebooks.
Arizona Project Wet
By partnering with the Arizona Project Wet (APW) program (https://arizonawet.arizona.edu/), we can reach the children in the community with STEM curriculum an state approved standards. Children also help public service announcements to reach new audiences by sharing with their families. APW’s student and teacher survey’s are enhancing the PAG outreach by providing measures for community awareness of outreach messages. The partnership is aiding APW by providing a sponsorship that will allow additional water festivals and teacher trainings to be held across eastern Pima County. APW is looking for teacher contacts in each jurisdiction, so let us know if you are interested.
Conserve to Enhance
Conserve2Enhance (http://conserve2enhance.org/Tucson) helps you track your water use over time, learn about where you have the most potential to save, and put your water savings to work supporting enhancement projects in your community! C2E features PAG's map of washes and tree canopy to help neighborhood identify appropriate opportunities for C2E green infrastructure enhancement grants. PAG sits on the Board of C2E.
The Poo Guys
The Poo Guys (https://pooguys.com/) dog waste removal consists of a weekly visit to your yard with precision to make sure every bit of waste is disposed of. Makes life easier for you! This keeps your yards fresh and pretty while helping to prevent stormwater pollution by pathogens that can be present in pet waste. The Poo Guys proudly display our Clean Water Starts With Me! and Clean Cities logos on their electric vehicles that they use to get from customer to customer across the Tucson region. This small local family business if off to a big start and helping us to spread the word about the importance of picking up where your dog left off for our stormwater quality.
©Pima Association of Governments | 1 E Broadway Blvd, Suite 401, Tucson, AZ 85701 | Telephone (520) 792-1093, FAX (520) 620-6981