Water Pollution Solutions

Stormwater Runoff

When we think water pollution, we may instantly picture a big factory with smoke pipes, an oil spill, or a toxic leak from an industrial facility. But across the country, "non-point source pollution," or pollution that comes from our small sources like our homes, yards, roads, and cars is the number one cause of water pollution. When it rains, water that doesn't soak into the ground is called stormwater or stormwater runoff. This water goes down your local storm drains, leading to streams, rivers, bays, and eventually the ocean. It can be problematic because as it flows over land and roads, it picks up trash, dirt, oil, pet waste, pesticides and or other chemicals. For example, washing a car on a paved driveway can cause auto fluids (oil, gas, anti-freeze), dirt, and heavy metals from wearing brakes or tires to flow from the driveway into the road, then down the storm drain and into a local stream.

Luckily, there are a number of ways that each of us can minimize our contribution to polluted runoff:

  • Think native. There are many plants, grasses and flowers that are native to our area and are therefore adapted to our particular climate, soil, and precipitation. Once established, they need little to no care, which reduces the need for costly and potentially harmful pesticides, fertilizers and supplemental watering. Consider bayscaping!
  • Use a mulching mower or go bagless. For those areas where you do have turf grass, mulching mowers provide a natural fertilizer for your lawn by grinding up leaves and grass and leaving them in place. This will also protect your grass from the hot summer sun and saves you from having to bag leaves in the fall. 
  • Find a lawn alternative. City code does not mandate turf grass. All sorts of alternatives to traditional turf lawns are available, including clover, sedum, and native grasses. The Maryland Extension Service has more information on native groundcovers
  • Use a commercial car wash. Federal laws require that these facilities send the dirty wash water to the local wastewater treatment plant...and many will collect, clean and reuse the water on-site. An added benefit - commercial car washes can use up to 50% less water than the do-it-yourself car washers.
  • If you want to wash your car, do it on your lawn. There is a regulation in the City that car tires must be on paved surfaces, but moving the car onto the grass temporarily for washing or maintenance is allowed, provided it is immediately moved back to the road, driveway or parking lot. This allows the ground to soak up the dirty water, rather than it becoming runoff.
  • At-home maintenance should be performed in a garage or on a grassy surface when possible. If you change your own oil, please make sure to take the used oil to the City's Public Works Department to be recycled. (The oil recycling facility is located at 6500 Annapolis Road).

Pet Waste

Q: Who doesn't love pets?

A: Streams. Well, it may not be the pets that are the problem, but rather their waste. Did you know the average dog can generate nearly 250 pounds of solid waste annually? Now, multiply that by the nearly 1,500 registered dogs in Bowie. That's a lot of dog poo! Part of having a pet means cleaning up behind them. Not only is it just the right thing to do, but it's also the law. City of Bowie Code Section 4-17. Defecation; removal of excrement states that animal waste must be removed and properly disposed of immediately. We encourage all pet owners to carry doggy poo bags with them and/or to seek out pet waste stations near them, as there are many in the City of Bowie and at the Dog Park.  For more pet waste information, we invite you to visit the Maryland Department of Environment's page on Scoop the Poop.


A rain barrel is a great solution to keep polluted runoff from leaving a home and to have a nearly endless supply of non-potable water for landscaping. In the summer, residential irrigation can account for up to 40% of water consumption. By storing rainwater in a rain barrel, you’ll have water for future use, whether it’s for watering plants or filling the bird bath and your garden and flowerbeds will be safe during any potential summertime droughts or water restrictions.

For more information view a video made by the Lions International with the Bowie Lions on their local rain barrel initiative. It earned international recognition for the Bowie Lions Club! This brochure will give you a little more information on rain barrels and instructions on how to make your own. Finally, once you have installed your rain barrel,  please contact Tiffany Wright, the City's Watershed Manager (by email or phone, 301-809-3043) to register it. The City tracks and maps rain barrel locations to calculate the amount and locations of stormwater captured by them. *map forthcoming*

Rain barrels are widely available both online and at local hardware or garden stores. They are also available from the Bowie Lions Club. To get more information on their rain barrels, call the Lions Club at 301-262-2665. 

Note: The City does not sell rain barrels or have any Lions Club rain barrels available at City Hall or other City buildings. Please contact them directly.