Keep Our Water Clean

Water is an essential part of our lives. In addition to quenching our thirst, we depend on it for recreation, to irrigate our farms and water our livestock, and to run our businesses. The job to protect water quality is complex. Governmental and nongovernmental organizations and citizens must all work together to protect and restore water resources. We encourage you to do your part.

Apply mulch around trees and shrubs.

Misapplication of fertilizer poses a significant threat to surface water and groundwaters. More is not always better when fertilizing your yard. Excessive watering or a rainstorm can wash away the chemical excess—wasting your money and endangering nearby waterways.  

  1. Apply pesticides and fertilizers according to the label’s directions and only to plants that are specified on the label. Only use the recommended amount of pesticide or fertilizer.
  2. Use the least-toxic pesticide first.
  3. Choose natural or organic fertilizers.
  4. After mowing, leave grass clippings on your lawn. These clippings act as a slow-release fertilizer for your grass.
  5. Plants that are native or well adapted to Texas require less pesticides and fertilizers when managed properly.
  6. Apply mulch around trees and shrubs, reducing the need for fertilizers.

For more information, download our Guide to Yard Care.

Irrigate efficiently to reduce runoff and erosion

Most lawns receive twice as much water as they require. Watering too heavily or too rapidly weakens your lawn, causing erosion and runoff. Water that is applied too rapidly is lost as runoff, which may carry polluting fertilizers and pesticides to streams and lakes. Excess irrigation can leach nutrients deep into the soil away from the plant roots, increasing the chances of groundwater pollution.  

  1. Apply water infrequently, yet thoroughly. A general rule is to water up to one inch, once a week. When watering, always comply with your water system’s restrictions.
  2. Water in the morning to save water from being evaporated by the midday heat.
  3. Sprinkler systems offer an effective method for irrigation, if used properly. Use larger drops close to the ground. The water in misters can evaporate quickly.
  4. Select grass carefully. Planting the turf grass adapted to your region that uses the least water is an effective way to reduce the need for irrigation.
  5. After mowing, leave grass clippings on your lawn to reduce your watering needs.
  6. Composting and grasscycling can reduce runoff pollution by preventing erosion, increasing the soil’s ability to absorb and retain water, and reducing the need for fertilizers.  
  7. Planting native Texas plants increases the soil’s capacity to store water and reduce runoff.

For more information, download our Guide to Yard Care.

Use less-toxic cleaning products

Using less-toxic cleaning products can reduce pollutants in both the air and water, and may help improve the air quality in your house. The EPA’s Safer Choice program labels products that can help protect the environment and are safer for families. Products certified with the Safer Choice label have been reviewed for potential effects on human health and the environment.

  1. Search for products that meet the Safer Choice standard.
  2. Find Safer Choice products to use in your community.
Collect your food scraps, oil and grease to avoid clogging sewer lines.

Fats, oils, and grease (FOG) come from meats, butters, lard, food scraps, sauces, dressings, dairy products, and cooking oil. FOG poured down kitchen drains accumulates inside sewer pipes, causing expensive backups and plumbing emergencies. This can cause untreated wastewater to back up into homes, businesses, lawns, parks, and streets. It can also run into nearby waterways, which affects our drinking water.

  1. Scrape food scraps into the trash, not your sink.
  2. Use strainers to catch food scraps that would otherwise be washed down the drain. Throw the scraps in the trash.
  3. Don’t pour cooking oil down the drain. Collect used cooking grease or oil in a sealable container and place it in the trash.
  4. Wipe pots, pans, and dishes with paper towels before rinsing or washing them. Then, throw away the paper towels.
  5. Rinse dishes and pans with cold water before putting them in the dishwasher. Hot water melts the FOG off the dishes and into the sewer pipes.
  6. Don’t use a garbage disposal or food grinder. Even non-greasy food scraps can clog your sewer lines.

Learn more about reducing FOG in your home from this TCEQ article. You can also download the bilingual infographic, Clean Pipes are Green Pipes or order free copies to distribute from our publications page.

Recycle used motor oil.

Whenever you change your oil or other vehicle fluids at home, make sure you recycle them. Never pour used motor oil down storm drains, because the drains will carry the oil directly to Texas waterways. The used oil from just one oil change can contaminate 1 million gallons of fresh water—a year's supply for 50 people.

  1. Visit to locate a recycling center near you.  
  2. While used oil cannot go in a landfill, it is accepted by many HHW collection programs.
  3. Some auto service centers accept used oil in quantities of less than 5 gallons.
Check your equipment for leaks and spills.

Regularly check your car, boat, motorcycle, or other equipment. If you find leaks or spills, make repairs as soon as possible. Don’t rinse the spills into a nearby storm drain. Clean up any spilled fluids with an absorbent like cat litter or sand. Remember to properly dispose of this absorbent material when you are done.

Maintain your septic system.

Septic systems that are not properly maintained can contaminate surface water and groundwater. Have your septic system inspected by a licensed professional every 3 years, and have the septic tank pumped as necessary—usually every 3 to 5 years. Regular maintenance fees are a bargain compared to the cost of repairing or replacing a malfunctioning system, which can cost between $3,000 and $7,000.  

  1. Everything that goes down your garbage disposal, sink, or toilet ends up in your septic system. Don’t flush or pour out any household items—such as chemicals, oil, or paper towels—which can harm your septic system.
  2. Find a licensed professional.  
  3. Find a registered sludge transporter.
  4. Learn how you can be Septic Smart.
Pick up pet waste

Dog waste can contribute to bacterial pollution in urban watersheds. Even if you are not near a body of water, stormwater can carry your pet waste and other pollutants directly into waterways. Pet waste is not a good fertilizer for your lawn and will not wash away on its own.

  1. Be prepared. Take bags with you to collect your pet’s waste. Deposit it in a trash can or dump it in the toilet (without the bag).
  2. Many parks and recreational areas offer courtesy bags and disposal boxes designed for pet waste.
  3. Never throw pet waste into a storm drain or waterway.

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