little girlWash your car at a car wash. Commercial car washes must treat the soapy water so that is has less impact on water quality. If you wash your car at home, use only biodegradable cleaning products.

Christmas treeDid you know that approximately 50 million Christmas trees are purchased in the US each year? Of these, close to 30 million end up taking up space in our landfills. This costs us money maintaining existing landfills and creating new ones. There is a better way–recycle your tree. Howard County’s Merry Mulch Your Holiday Tree Program offers curbside collection in some areas. Year-round recycling is available at the yard waste drop off site at Alpha Ridge. Start small by thinking globally and acting locally. Begin with what you are able to do and soon you will build the capacity to take on more.

cute little doggie brown and whiteLeaving pet waste on the ground allows harmful bacteria and nutrients to wash into storm drains and eventually into Columbia’s streams and lakes. Remember to pick up waste and dispose of it properly. Flushing pet waste is the best disposal method.

a rake on top of golden color leavesCleaning up autumn leaves doesn’t have to be a big chore. Turn that mound of leaves into beneficial mulch and feel good about doing your part to turn waste into a usable product that nurtures your garden and keeps nutrients out of our lakes and streams.

  • Start by raking the leaves out of your shrub or flowerbeds. The object is to get all of the leaves onto a grassy or otherwise flat surface.
  • Use the lawn mower to chop the leaves into smaller pieces.
  • Gather up the leaf mulch and apply to your flower and shrub beds, natural areas or vegetable garden. The mulch can be applied several times over the season but you shouldn’t let the depth exceed four inches at any one time
  • Columbia Association: Mow(Yes, Mow) Your Leaves! Mulching leaves is as easy as 1, 2, 3.

green bushesMake your yard a bay-wise yard! Bay-wise landscaping provides a habitat for songbirds and other creatures. Along with reducing pollution, Bay-wise landscaping provides habitat for songbirds and other creatures. Learn more at

Mosquitoes are most active during the summer months, when people and animals are out enjoying the sun outside.

There are many different types of mosquitoes in the world, and about 60 different species of mosquitoes in Maryland. Mosquitoes lay their eggs in water. Some types prefer large open bodies of water, while others lay eggs in very small puddles. Mosquitoes can grow from an egg to a flying adult in as little as 72 hours. In Columbia, the types of mosquitoes that bite humans and can cause diseases lay their eggs in very small amounts of water near homes.

Columbia Association conducts active mosquito surveillance in its open space. This involves monitoring standing water, identifying the species for any mosquitoes found, and encouraging natural mosquito predators. CA also provides public education through teaching residents about mosquito ecology, breeding sites, and how to eliminate mosquitoes from their yards to help prevent diseases carried by mosquitoes. Something as simple as emptying standing water from your yard on a weekly basis will reduce mosquitoes. Download and/or print flyer with additional information.

ice sickles on tree branches

  • Avoid applying harsh chemicals to mitigate ice. Many de-icers contain harsh chemicals that remain as residue and are carried into the storm drams as ice melts.
  • Only use de-icers that have eco-friendly labeling to protect Columbia’s waters.

person holding a water hoseShould you put your lawn on a diet? Excess fertilizer is a significant source of water pollution. Read the package directions and apply just enough for the size of your lawn. Read more at

grassKeep lawn clippings and leaves out of storm drains. Although these are organic materials, yard clippings and leaves contribute excess nutrients to Columbia’s streams and lakes, which can lead to algae blooms.

What can you do to have a nice lawn in the summer? Save yourself some heart burn and money.grass

  • Collect a soil sample from your lawn and have it analyzed.
  • Fertilize your lawn in the fall based on the soil sample results and follow the University of Maryland’s recommendations.
  • Mow the lawn tall, 3-4 inches. Taller grass shades the soil better, preserving natural moisture and inhibiting weed germination.
  • Leave the clippings on the lawn, they create organic matter. Organic matter absorbs and retains moisture in the soil like a sponge.
  • Keep the lawnmower blade sharp. This cuts the blades of grass clean instead of ragged, reducing moisture loss after mowing.
  • Over-seed in September with drought-tolerant grass seed.
  • And finally, don’t use pesticides. They kill the worms that aerate and fertilize the soil.

manmade depressionRecycle rainwater. A “rain barrel” is defined as a container that collects and stores rainwater from downspouts and rooftops for future use watering lawns and gardens. A rain barrel may be located on the property provided that it is located on a downspout. Rain barrels must be made out of a durable material and must be no more than 65 gallons in size. Rain barrels can be painted and should be maintained in good condition.

violet color flowersDo you have a place for a rain garden? A rain garden is a manmade depression designed to collect storm water from roofs and pavement. They have a sandy soil mix and are planted with native trees, shrubs, grasses and flowers. Their purpose is to improve water quality and to reduce the amount of water entering storm drains and streams.

downspout diverter

  • Disperse rain collected in downspouts and gutters throughout your yard.
  • Running downspouts into the storm drain or onto a hard surface reduces infiltration of rainwater into the ground.
  • By using a downspout extension, such as tubing or a downspout diverter, rainwater can be used to water gardens and trees.

run off pipeYour street connects to downstream lakes, wetlands, and streams through the storm sewer system. Water runs off your yard and into the street and flows rapidly through storm drains carrying pollutants collected along the way, directly into Columbia’s streams and lakes.

  • Keep your curb areas clean and don’t throw lawn and yard waste into gullies and streams. A “gully washer” is just that, anything in your street gutters and anything you’ve put in gullies gets washed downstream. Most of it ultimately has to be cleaned out of one of the lakes or ponds in town or washes further downstream.
  • If it creates a blockage at the storm drain or in the stream then there could be flooding. Remember, storm water is not treated like that sanitary sewer water before it reaches the local lakes, wetlands and streams.