Four Reasons to be Thankful for your Watersheds

At Thanksgiving we pause and reflect on what we are grateful for, thinking of family and friends, good health and good fortune. We should also remember to be thankful for our watersheds because:

  1. Watersheds Provide Quality Water Supply
  • Supplies clean drinkable water to local communities
  • Provides water for growing food and plants
  • Reduces the impacts of climate change by cooling the air and absorbing greenhouse gas emissions
  1. Watersheds Promote Water Conservation
  • Provides basins and other dependable groundwater sources to store water
  • Reduces negative effects of drought
  • Supports habitat for wildlife and plants
  1. Watersheds Support Economic Benefits
  • Reduces flooding impacts and limits costs of repairing damages
  • Fuels agriculture by providing energy and supplying water
  • Contributes to tourism, fisheries, forestry, and mining industries
  1. Watersheds Enhance Recreational Activity
  • Offers waterways perfect for physical activity, personal reflection, or for a picnic with your loved ones.
  • Provides opportunities such as fishing, kayaking, hiking, yoga, and more.
  • Allows for an escape from everyday city life.

Show your gratitude for our watersheds by keeping them clean. Do your part to prevent water pollution by properly disposing of pet waste and household trash, and making sure you’re not letting any harmful chemicals flow into the street. If you see it, report it! Click or call to report pollution.

Don’t Haunt the Watershed this Halloween

Costumes, pumpkins, and candy – Halloween can be an exciting time for families, but it can also be a real horror for local watersheds. The ghoulish season produces large amounts of waste from candy wrappers, decorations, old pumpkins, and anything that may be left outside.

Some kids cannot wait to eat their candy, so they peel off the wrappers, launch the sugary treats into their mouths, and leave behind a trail of litter. When left on the street, the litter is eventually carried through storm water into the storm drains. These storm drains lead directly to nearby water sources and our beautiful watersheds.

Recent studies have found that a majority of the litter found in U.S. streams originates from household trash. Wildlife in these streams can be harmed when they ingest litter.

Here are some things you can do this Halloween to keep trash out of our rivers and creeks:

  1. Instruct your kids to keep their candy wrappers on them. You can have them carry a bag to put them in or they can just stuff them in their pockets.
  2. Make sure to properly take down all decorations and recycle any appropriate items.
  3. Properly recycle your pumpkins at a compost station or a green waste trash can, if available, when the season is over.
  4. Help out your community and pick up any candy wrappers you might find throughout the night.

Litter is usually the byproduct of carelessness and intentional decisions. This Halloween, teach your children to care about our watersheds as much as they care about their candy.

Small, Butt Mighty Bad

Cigarettes come with a Surgeon General warning, but human health isn’t the only thing affected by cigarettes. Discarded cigarette butts create a water quality hazard right in our neighborhood, ranking number one as the most harmful waste to hit waterways.

Let’s face it. Many smokers casually drop their cigarette butts, thinking it won’t matter if it’s on the street or sidewalk. But cigarette butts aren’t actually biodegradable, myth busted. A cigarette butt can take as long as 10 years to decompose, allowing close to 7,000 chemicals to seep into waterways, contributing to years of pollution. This harmful trash then travels down the road into a storm drain and directly into our waterways.

Toxic tobacco trash is littering our water supplies and natural environments, creating more than just an eyesore for our community. In California alone, 34% of bagged waste is cigarette butts, making it one of the most common items amongst litter.

However small it may be, when that cigarette butt lands on the ground or in the gutter, it becomes litter. Many people who would never purposefully toss trash out of a window don’t even think twice about the butt of their cigarette or the harm it could cause.

Check out these ways to encourage litter-free behavior:

  • If you smoke, be sure to find a proper receptacle to dispose of the cigarette butt.
  • Remind smokers to look around for a place to discard their cigarette butt when you see them light up.
  • Encourage retailers, property owners and municipalities to include more trash cans at the transition points – the places where someone must stop smoking.

Remember, it’s important to keep this small, butt mighty bad trash out of our watersheds!

Why Rush to Flush?


Have you ever opened the medicine cabinet and had a dozen little orange bottles look back at you?   Those bottles represent modern medicine, but they also represent a potential hazard. A pill to cure all ills is just a prescription away, but what happens when that particular pill is no longer a necessity in your everyday life?  Keeping expired or unused medication around the home can lead to accidental drug overdose by children, and even drug abuse.

For some folks, a common practice is to flush expired prescription medication down the toilet. This old school way of thinking is “flush it down and let Mother Nature take care of it.” Unfortunately, that may allow these medications to make their way into the watershed.

Recent studies have found trace levels of drug residues in lakes, streams and in community drinking water supplies throughout the United States. A 2012 study published in the journal Environmental Science concluded that human drugs can disrupt the biology and behavior of fish and other aquatic critters at very low concentrations.

Riverside County Watershed Protection Program recommends some helpful tips to ensure our waterways and streams are drug-free.

  • Find an official disposal location near you at
  • Before disposal, transfer pills from original containers to a small sealable plastic bag
  • Remove all personal information from prescription, aerosol or liquid containers

Remember, our watershed doesn’t need a pill to feel better; it just needs caring people to do their part.

These 4 Life Hacks Can Make Your Home Watershed Friendly

  1. Keep your car AND water clean. Driving a clean car is a real pleasure. But keeping the car clean can lead to polluting the waterways unless you think ahead. You can choose ways to clean your car AND keep our water supplies clean. Take your car to a professional car wash that reclaims the wash water. This prevents oil, grease and pollutants from washing into the storm drains. If you prefer a DIY approach, be sure to use an auto shutoff nozzle to prevent runoff and waste and skip the driveway. Wash on the lawn instead, using a biodegradable and phosphate-free cleanser.
  2. Use alternatives to pesticides. Insects and other critters can damage your lawn, however, pesticides used to control these bugs can be damaging to our ecosystem. Common pesticides can leach onto water sources where they can cause harm to humans and aquatic organisms. Alternatives to pesticides include using organic fertilizer, applying seaweed, overseeding and applying dishwater soap to your lawn. More organic lawn care tips can be found here.
  3. Take advantage of free hazardous waste disposal. It is illegal in California to toss household hazardous waste (HHW) into the trash. What counts as HHW? Common household items like motor oil and oil filters, paints, solvents, cleaners…even old batteries! Riverside County has three free household hazardous waste facilities located in Jurupa Valley, Lake Elsinore, and Palm Springs. These facilities will take up to 15 gallons, or 125 pounds of household hazardous waste per trip. Make it a habit to properly dispose of household hazardous waste at least once a month. For more information on hazardous waste facilities, click here.
  4. Spread the word. We all live downstream so it is up to us to ensure our waterways are healthy and functional. Make it point educate your family, friends, and neighbors on watershed safety, health and tips. Start by sharing this blog post! Preventing water pollution is a team effort, be sure to do your part to help keep Riverside County clean.

Calling DIY’ers – FREE Products

DROP off your hazardous waste and SHOP for free products! Stop by our Drop & Shop reuse stores to pick up FREE products for your next home or vehicle maintenance task. All products are inspected and made available to other customers for FREE. Most products are in good condition and sometimes even unopened! Availability of free products varies, but may include: paint, cleaners, pool, spa, lawn care and automotive products. Accepted household hazardous waste varies per location, see below for details.


See the Household Hazardous Waste flyer for addresses and hours.

Rev It Up! Five Ways to Better Car Care

We all know that cars need regular maintenance and repair. However, when done right, car care can keep more than just the vehicle running in tiptop shape. Knowing how to properly manage automotive fluids and materials helps prevent harmful pollutants like motor oil, grease, copper, asbestos and zinc from running into our local waters and upsetting aquatic life. Follow these five simple tips to better car care:

  • Never hose down your work area. Harmful pollutants could be washed into the storm drains and into our local waters. Sweep or vacuum the shop floor instead.
  • Use a funnel and drip pan to prevent unexpected leaks and spills. You can avoid fluid spills by emptying and wiping the drip pans when they are half-full.
  • Collect, store and recycle used automotive fluids like motor oil, antifreeze, transmission fluid and gear oil separately. Mixed waste fluids are not accepted for recycling.
  • Keep dry absorbent materials or a wet/dry vacuum on hand to quickly clean up mid-sized spills.
  • Train employees on efficient hazardous waste spill response and emergency procedures.

Check out our Automotive Maintenance and Car Care Best Management Practices brochure for more tips.

Pollution Solution: Recycle your Used Motor Oil

Changing your own motor oil is a smart way to save money, but carelessly tossing the used sludge can have serious repercussions on our creeks, rivers and lakes. Along with hazardous chemicals, used motor oil is loaded with lead, arsenic, and other metallic compounds that wear off from your engine over time. When dumped into storm drains, poured onto the ground, or even thrown into black bins in a sealed container, this oil can reach waterways and cause contamination that can make us sick and kill water-dwelling plants and animals.

Thankfully, it’s easy to keep your DIY oil change eco-friendly.

  • When doing an oil change, use a drip pan to collect any spills. If a spill occurs, soak it up using an absorbent material such as kitty litter or sawdust and scoop into a sealed container.
  • Store your used motor oil in a sealed container completely free of leaks and drop it off at a certified used oil collection center.
  • Don’t forget your oil filter. Filters store more than 10 ounces of oil—even after they’re drained—so they should never be tossed in the trash. Place filters in a sealed plastic bag and call your collection center before you go to make sure they accept them.
  • Keep your new motor oil green by choosing re-refined oil, a product that’s recycled from used motor oil and then reprocessed. Though they’re not nearly as heavily marketed as standard motor oils, re-refined oils are just as high-performing and may be even more effective than virgin crude oil.
  • Lastly, watch for oil leaks and fix it right away. Leaking motor oil washes from the street into storm drains when it rains.

7 Ways to Tackle Water Pollution

Calling all clean-water warriors! By following these 10 simple pollution prevention tips, you can help stop harmful chemicals from washing into our local waters.

#1. Pass on pesticides. Add herbicides and fertilizers to that, too. Rainwater or water from your sprinklers wash these chemicals into the storm drains and out to our creeks, rivers and lakes. Even small amounts of commercial lawn chemicals can disrupt the delicate aquatic environment.

#2. Don’t let yard waste go to waste. Leaving grass clippings on your lawn after mowing or trimming provide valuable nutrients that lowers your need for fertilizer. If dumped in local waters, those grass clippings can eat up the oxygen in the water, harming fish and plants.

#3. Don’t let water get dirt-y. Gardeners might like getting their hands in the dirt, but when soil gets into stormwater, it can cause our local water to become polluted. Prevent erosion by planting drought-tolerant native plants on your property and always cover dirt piles with a tarp when rain is forecast.

#4. Rain barrels to the rescue. In our drought-stricken state, every drop counts. Install a rain barrel to collect rainwater and use it to water your garden. It will also greatly reduce the amount of runoff from your property.

#5. Clamp down on car fluids. Have your oil changes done at an automotive repair shop and check for leaks frequently. Oil and antifreeze are hazardous chemicals that can cause major water pollution problems.

#6. Pick up after your pet. Did you know a single gram of pet waste contains 23 million bacteria? When left on the ground, pet waste (and its bacteria) can wash into our storm drains and into local waters, endangering people, pets and aquatic life. Visit our pet page for more tips.

#7. Lastly, litter. Every piece of litter that ends up on our streets and sidewalks could end up polluting our rivers. Don’t litter and pick up every straw, scrap and bottle cap you see.

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