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Pollution Prevention

Stormwater can be polluted by a variety of common urban pollutants. All of these pollutants degrade the water quality and aquatic life in the San Francisco Bay and surrounding creeks. Here are 12 impactful ways that you can prevent pollution in your home and community. To stay updated on stormwater projects in San Mateo County, subscribe to the Flows to Bay quarterly newsletter.

Adopt a Drain1. Adopt a Drain

Adopting a storm drain means pledging to keep the drain clean by removing leaves and trash on top. Volunteers can help reduce localized flooding, prevent trash from entering the Bay, receive free supplies, and name their adopted drain.




Trash2. Don't Litter

Trash makes up much of the inorganic debris that gets washed into storm drains. Common items that end up in our waterways include cigarette butts, plastic straws, and food wrappers. Help beautify your community by picking up trash in your neighborhood.




Pet Waste3. Scoop the Poop

Did you know that one gram of dog waste can contain 23 million fecal bacteria? The largest source of animal waste in stormwater is from pet owners who do not clean up after their pets. Remember to always carry pet waste bags when taking your dog for a walk and to throw pet waste in the garbage, not compost.




Car Wash4. Wash Your Car at a Commercial Car Wash Facility 

Washing your car on the street can be one of the most environmentally-unfriendly chores. That’s because pollutants such as oil, metals, dirt, and soap can flow into a storm drain which leads into the Bay and pollutes our environment. The best environmentally-friendly option is to wash your car at a commercial car wash since they collect and recycle the wash water.



Bayfront Cleanup5. Attend Bayfront Cleanup Day in September

Every 3rd Saturday in September, the City hosts a bayfront cleanup day where volunteers come together to pick up trash along the San Francisco Bay Trail. In 2017, volunteers all over the state collected over 316,000 pounds of litter from our beaches in just three hours!




Toilets are not trashcans6. Toilets Aren't Trashcans

Poop, paper and pee are the only three things that should be flushed in the toilet. Other items like floss, “flushable” baby wipes, medicine, and feminine hygiene products should not be flushed since it can lead to sewer back-ups or cause problems for the wastewater treatment plant.




Our Water Our World7. Use Less Toxic Cleaning Products

Pesticides, herbicides, and insecticides contain several harmful ingredients that can kill not only weeds, but also aquatic wildlife if it comes in contact with stormwater. The next time you’re at the hardware store, look for less toxic pest control and gardening products certified by our program partner Our Water Our World.



Rain Barrel8. Install a Rain Barrel

Don’t let good water go to waste! By installing a rain barrel you can capture rainwater and use it to water your plants. San Mateo County residents can save up to $100 per rain barrel by claiming a rebate here. Already have a rain barrel? Consider putting yourself on our map to show support for the rain barrel movement.



Rain Garden9. Build a Rain Garden in Your Yard

Rain gardens help capture runoff and allows stormwater to soak into the ground, while removing pollutants and replenishing the groundwater supply. If you have a turf lawn in your front or backyard, you can receive a rebate of up to $2,000!




Household hazardous waste10. Dispose of Household Chemicals Safely

Household hazardous waste (such as aerosol cans, batteries, paint, or motor oil) can be recycled at the HHW Collection Facility in San Mateo by making an appointment for drop off. NEVER discard these items on the street or in the garbage bin since it can get into our waterways.

If you have old medicine or unused prescription drugs, DON’T flush them down the toilet or sink since they contain chemicals that can harm fish and other animals. Instead, dispose your old pharmaceutical drugs at a police station near you.


No oil down the sink11. Never Pour Oil Down the Drain

Have you ever heard of the saying “oil and water don’t mix”? It’s true! Pouring cooking oil down your sink can clog your sewer pipes. If you have a lot of leftover fats, oil, or grease, collect it in a jar and dispose of it in the trash. For smaller amounts, absorb the oil with a paper napkin and compost it. 




Bike more, drive less12. Drive Less, Bike/Walk/Transit More

Motor vehicles can emit dangerous pollutants such as hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxides onto our streets. These pollutants can get washed into local creeks and the bay during the rainy season. Switch up your commute by biking, walking, or taking public transportation to work or school and get rewarded for doing so!