Habits that Help:

Reduce Your Personal Pollution

Changing everyday habits is one of the most effective and costly ways to reduce pollution flowing into our waterways. From changes in lawn care practices to proper pet waste disposal, we'll show you the most important habits that will really help make a difference in water quality. 


Bay Friendly Landscaping

There are over 1.3 million acres of turf grass in Maryland, making it the largest crop in our state.  Every year, millions of pounds of nitrogen and phosphorous are applied to lawns throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed as lawn fertilizer. The nitrogen and phosphorous that is not immediately absorbed by the soil or taken up by plants eventually reach the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries through storm-water runoff. Pesticides applied to lawns also reach our waterways through storm water runoff and can affect the health of the plants, animals and people right in your own yard.  

Learn more about pollution and water quality in our local waterways. 

Caring for your lawn in a sustainable way is an important part of reducing harmful pollution in our waterways.  In an effort to help homeowner and lawn care professionals care for lawns properly, the state of Maryland passed new fertilizer regulations in 2011.    These regulations set forth an important guidance for homeowners and companies in caring for lawns. 

Learn more about the new guidelines for lawns here.

The Watershed Stewards Academy advocates for the elimination of all fertilizers and pesticides wherever possible.  On turf lawns, it is essential to maintain dense plant cover to prevent sediment and nutrient runoff.  If you maintain your own lawn, here are some helpful hints to maintaining a lush dense lawn and reduce or eliminate harmful chemicals If you use a lawn care company to maintain your lawn, consider using Clean Lawn Care services.


Just like our DNA pre-determines our longevity, planting the right kind of grass in your yard can significantly increase the health of your lawn and reduce your need for fertilizers and pesticides.  

Don’t Grow Grass Where Grass does not want to Grow!

Consider alternatives to traditional grass if:

  • Your yard is shady or sandy
  • You have a steep hill and have trouble mowing the grass

Consider replacing those lawn areas with a conservation landscape of native trees or shrubs.  

If you like the look of grass, consider these low growing native alternatives:

Test Your Soil 

A list of University of Maryland-recommended soil testing labs can be found in UMD Extension Publication HG 110 and HG 110a.  

  • A basic soil test will tell you the major, secondary, and minor plant nutrients, pH, and soil organic matter.
  • Soil test results will provide lime recommendations to correct pH to the 5.5-7.0 range.  Adjusting nutrient levels based on soil test results will result in a better soil environment for growing lawns.
  • Note that soil tests do not typically provide information on nitrogen in your soil, since the concentration of nitrogen can change rapidly from day to day.  Therefore, every soil test will recommend addition of nitrogen fertilizer.  


  • Mow Tall!  Moving your mower deck to 31/2  inches high can reduce weeds by as much as   50-80%.
  • Mow with a mulching blade.  Leave clippings on your lawn for natural fertilizer.

Did you know… One gas mower running for an hour emits the same amount of pollutants as eight new cars driving 55 mph for the same amount of time, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists.   The EPA states that 17 million gallons of fuel, mostly gasoline, are spilled each year while refueling lawn equipment.

Water Properly 

  • Rainfall in our area is often sufficient to adequately support lawns in our region.  Excess water can damage your lawn.  Most lawns in Anne Arundel County are tall fescue, a cool season grass that naturally becomes dormant (brown) in the summer.   For a healthy lawn, you may not need to water between July 4th and Labor Day.
  • When watering is necessary, water slowly and deeply (1 inch per week when there is no rain) in the morning only.  Watering in the evening can increase the opportunity for fungal disease on your lawn.  

Fertilize Wisely

  • Try Not Fertilizing, but if you must… “Fertilize in Fall if at All”  Fertilizing the lawn in the spring can lead to a weak lawn and weed problems.
  • Do not apply fertilizers to frozen ground, dormant turf, on sidewalks or driveways. 
  • Do not apply fertilizers within 10 feet of the water or when a heavy rain is predicted.
  • Use a product that is at least 50%  slow-release “water insoluble” or “controlled release”  fertilizer.”  This ensures that your lawn receives nutrients for a longer period of time. 
  • More is not better—apply only the recommended amount of fertilizer.  The rest just washes off.Carefully follow the recommended fertilizer amounts. Reference property fertilizer rates for your yard.    


Try Integrated Pest Management to control weeds and insects.  In many cases, a healthy lawn in your best defense against pests.

Lists of less harmful alternative pest control products can be found:

Maintain and Upgrade Septic Systems


In areas without public sewer service, household wastewater (from bathrooms, kitchen and laundry) is treated by a septic system.  A septic system has two major components:  a septic tank and a drain field.  Wastewater flows from the house to the septic tank, which retains water long enough for heavy solids to settle to the bottom.  A solid pipe leads from the septic tank to a distribution box where untreated waste water is directed to the drain field—one or more perforated pipes set in trenches of gravel.  Here, the water slowly infiltrates into the underlying soil. 

Even though wastewater is much cleaner than when it entered the septic tank, it still contains pollutants.  25% of all homes in Anne Arundel County have septic systems. Each of these systems, in good condition, releases about 30 pounds of nitrogen per year into our waterways.  You can also install a Best Available Technology (BAT)  nitrogen reducing septic system.

What you can do...

  • Pump out your tank every two to three years.  If the tank gets too full, sludge particles will flush out of the tank and clog the drain lines, and leach out into surface water. The EPA recommends tanks be pumped before sludge and scum accumulations exceed 30% of the tank volume.

  • Do not add starter enzymes or yeast to your system. Additives have not been scientifically proven to improve the performance of your system.

  • Do not pour fats and oils, antibacterial or antiseptic products, chlorine bleach, solvents, chemicals, pesticides, paint thinner, or auto products down the drain.  These substances can kill the good bacteria that make the system function.

  • Do not put trash in the toilet such as paper towels, tissues, cigarette butts, disposable diapers, sanitary napkins, tampons, or condoms. These items do not break down quickly and can fill the septic tank.

  • Direct downspout discharges and runoff away from the septic field to avoid saturating the drain field area with excess water.

  • Do not overload the system—this is the primary cause of system failures. Early morning and bedtime are peak use times in the bathroom. Run dishwashers and washing machines at other times of the day. Try not to do more than one load of laundry each day.

  • Dense grass cover and other shallow-rooted plants are beneficial over a drain field, however, do not plant trees near a drain field because large plant roots can clog or break the pipes.

  • Avoid compacting the soil over a drain field to ensure proper percolation of effluent.

  • Use biodegradable laundry detergent.


Learn More ...   

Anatomy of a Septic Tank Video

Septic Tank Do's and Don'ts

How to Care for your Septic Tank

Bay Restoration Fund Grants available from the Anne Arundel County Health Department

     Anne Arundel County Well and Septic Information:    410-222-7393         

     A basic video on Septic Systems

     Chesapeake Bay Nitrogen Reduction Act of 2009 - Senate Bill 554




Click on sign above to download artwork


Pick Up Pet Waste

A single gram of dog waste can contain 23 million bacteria.  When washed into the waterways by rain water, this bacteria can cause serious health hazards.  Pet waste also contains nutrients that can cause dead zones in the Bay.

Did you know all Anne Arundel County waterways are closed to human contact for 48 hours after EVERY rain storm exceeding 1 inch of rainfall?   This is due to bacteria pollution - much of it from pet waste - that washes into the rivers and streams during each rain storm. For information about bacteria contamination at swimming beaches, contact Operation Clean Water.   

    Learn More ...

Doody Calls

Pet Waste Pick Up Services

Other pet waste info for download


Reduce Your Energy Use

By reducing energy usage by 5%, Americans could save approximately $11.5 billion and significantly reduce pollution from burning fossil fuels.  The air pollution emitted from electric power plant sis trapped by falling rain, which then drains into the local waterways and the Bay.  

Scientists tell us that almost 1/3 of the nutrient pollution and many chemical contaminants entering the Bay come from air pollution.  Energy usage costs us water quality and money.

What you can do...

  • Use compact florescent light bulbs or LED light bulbs, which use 75% less energy and last longer, instead of incandescent light bulbs. 
  • Turn off lights, electronics, and chargers that are not in use.
  • Perform a home energy audit and weatherize your home. Check that your house is properly insulated to keep heat or AC from being wasted.
  • Let clothes and dishes air-dry instead of using an electric dryer or the heat-dry setting on your dishwasher.
  • Install a programmable thermostat to adjust the temperature settings at night and when you are away from home.
  • Look into using alternative energy sources such as wind, solar or geothermal. Many power companies offer renewable energy as a more sustainable option in your home. After a little research, you may find that switching is easier, and cheaper than you had originally thought!

Non-Toxic Household Products

Household hazardous wastes (HHW) include paints, cleaners, batteries, motor oil, nail polish, weed killers and drain treatments. Most of us have 50 to 100 pounds of HHW in our homes. While some products are essential to our everyday lives, HHW contain chemicals that are potentially harmful to both people and the environment.

What you can do ...

  • Become familiar with the dozens of common products in your home, garage and shed that contain hazardous or toxic substances.
  • Follow the directions on the label so you use only what's needed. Twice as much doesn't mean twice the results!
  • Whether it's motor oil or paint thinner, make an effort to follow the safe (and legal) means of disposal. Never throw HHW down a drain, into the trash or onto your lawn or driveway!
  • Discover non-toxic alternatives to HHW. There are many fast and easy cleaning recipes using items you probably already have, such as baking soda, lemon juice and corn starch. Also, many companies offer non-toxic, all-natural and environmentally friendly cleaning products.
  • Switch from disposable batteries to rechargeable batteries, which can be used again and again.
  • Take preventative measures to control pests around the home, rather than using chemical sprays to solve your pest problems.

Learn More ... 

List and Information on Household Hazardous Waste

Disposing of Hazardous Waste

Alternative Household Cleaners 

Recycle Your Electronics 

Common Household Waste

Maintain Cars and Boats

If you drive a car or use a boat, you have an important role to play in the protection of our waterways.

Vehicle maintenance is an important and easy way to prevent oil, heavy metals, and other toxic chemicals from reaching the Bay. After oil has leaked from a car onto a driveway, rainwater washes it into the street, toward the nearest storm drain and ultimately into the Bay. It is estimated that 180 million gallons of oil are disposed of improperly each year. A single quart of oil can contaminate 250,000 gallons of water.

Likewise, carpooling or using public transportation also reduces water pollution.   The exhaust from cars contributes to air pollution, which is captured in rain and returned to the watershed.  The less we drive, the fewer air pollutants make their way to our waterways.

Boaters play an important role in protecting water quality.  The way you maintain and use your boat has a great effect on the Bay.

What you can do...

  • Carpool, bike or take public transportation.
  • Wash your car on grass or gravel to reduce the amount of contaminated water flowing into the street or storm drains. Use biodegradable cleaners, which are free of phosphates.
  • Spread the word in your community and lead a storm drain stenciling program to label each drain with the message, "Don't Dump! Chesapeake Bay Drainage."
  • Conduct any maintenance work, including fluid changes, indoors. Soak up leaks or spills with absorbent material.
  • Put oil absorbent materials in heavy plastic bags before disposing.
  • Immediately repair any fluid leaks from your car or boat.
  • Take used fluids (including oil, antifreeze, and solvents) to the proper disposal or recycling center. Remember, they are hazardous waste!
  • Fill a boat's gas tank only to 90% capacity to avoid spills.
  • Obey boat speed limits and move slowly through shallow areas to avoid eroding the shoreline with wakes.

Never discharge raw sewage into Maryland waters; use restrooms on shore; pump out and rinse tanks frequently; Avoid holding tank products that contain quarternary ammonium compounds (QAC) and formaldehyde.

Learn More ...

Maryland’s Clean Marina Initiative

Anne Arundel County Household Hazardous Waste Management

Eco Friendly Car Washing 

Eco Friendly Car Washing Event

Find a WaterSaver Commercial Car Wash Near You

Reduce Gas Emissions

Invasive Species Removal

Some weeds are so persistent, destructive, and difficult to eradicate that they have been designated as noxious. Maryland has a noxious weed law that requires landowners to control Canada thistle, johnsongrass, and shattercane on private property.  For effective control, both the seed and the root system of these weeds must be managed by mowing, cultivating, or treating with approved herbicide.

Plants that are widely known to out-compete native plants and quickly take over natural areas, but have not been designated as noxious weeds, are called invasive plants.

Many common invasive plants are used in landscapes. Eradicate invasive plants on your property and before you purchase a new plant, be sure it is not a listed invasive plant.

Here are a few examples of common invasive and noxious plants:

         Chinese Silvergrass   Miscanthus sinensis Anderss.

         Chinese Silvergrass
 Miscanthus sinensis Anderss.

                English Ivy                 Hedera helix

                English Ivy
               Hedera helix

         Japanese Stiltgrass        Microstegium vimineum

         Japanese Stiltgrass
      Microstegium vimineum

              Multiflora Rose         Rosa multiflora Thunb

              Multiflora Rose
       Rosa multiflora Thunb

         Oriental Bittersweet   Celastrus orbiculatus Thunb

         Oriental Bittersweet
 Celastrus orbiculatus Thunb

   Phragmites/Common Reed          Phragmites australis

   Phragmites/Common Reed
        Phragmites australis

What you can do ...

  • Identify the invasive plants in your yard or community and take action to get rid of them. Many invasives can be controlled by hand pulling. See Plant Invaders of the Mid Atlantic Natural Areas book for more information on identification and eradication techniques.  Single invasive plant fact sheets are available from the Plant Conservation Alliance.
  • Replace areas full of invasives with native plants. Native flora provide crucial habitat to native fauna and require much less maintenance.
  • Plant a diverse selection of native plants to support a larger number of Maryland species.
  • Volunteer with a local environmental or watershed organization to remove invasive species in parks and communities in the area.
  • Never travel with firewood from home; buy wood when you reach your destination.  Invasive species such as the Emerald Ash Borer have been spread this way throughout Maryland causing wide destruction of native ash trees.



Conserve Land

Land in the Chesapeake Bay watershed and in Anne Arundel County is a finite resource. Once a natural area such as a forest or a wetland is developed into a housing subdivision or shopping center, it is lost forever. Preserving land for use as parks, wildlife refuges and historic sites provides wildlife with the habitat they need to survive, filters pollution before it can flow to the Bay and its tributaries, and gives people a place to visit and enjoy the natural beauty of our region. 

Maryland citizens can preserve land through a variety of land trust organizations.

A statewide land trust governed by a citizen board of trustees, the Maryland Environmental Trust was established in 1967 by the Maryland General Assembly to preserve privately owned farm and forest lands and significant natural resources. MET is one of the oldest and most successful land trusts in the country. It holds 1050 easements and has protected over 130,000 acres across the State. MET promotes the protection of open land through its Land Conservation Program, Monitoring and Stewardship Program and Local Land Trust Assistance Program. MET also provides grants to environmental education projects through the Keep Maryland Beautiful Program. For more information, visit www.dnr.maryland.gov/met.

Local Anne Arundel County Land Trusts