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Polluted stormwater runoff is the number one cause of poor water quality in Northern Virginia's waterways. When it rains and snows, water runs off streets, driveways, yards and parking lots and mixes with pollutants, such as litter, fertilizer, pet waste, road salt, and auto fluids. These pollutants then enter storm drains on the street and are discharged directly into nearby streams. To reduce the impacts of stormwater pollution, the Northern Virginia Clean Water Partners (NVCWP) joined together to improve residents’ knowledge and behaviors through an ongoing public education campaign.
The NVCWP is composed of a group of local governments, drinking water and sanitation authorities, and businesses that share the common goals to keep Northern Virginia residents healthy and safe by reducing the amount of pollution from stormwater runoff that reaches local creeks and rivers, and empower individuals to take action to reduce pollution. To meet these goals, the partners identify high priority water quality issues for the region and conduct an annual Regional Stormwater Education Campaign to engage and educate residents on ways that they can improve their stormwater-related behaviors.
Following the campaign, the NVCWP conducts an online survey of Northern Virginia residents to assess the effectiveness of the campaign strategy and best direct future education and outreach efforts based on survey responses. In 2023, the survey asked specific questions to understand changes in Northern Virginia residents' behaviors around relevant stormwater management and pollution issues, including pet waste, lawn and garden care, car fluids, and household hazardous waste.
51% of residents reported owning at least one dog. Of those that walk their dog, 89% stated that they always or usually pick up their dog's waste during walks, while 3% rarely or never pick up the waste. In comparison, only 61% of residents reported picking up their pet's waste on a daily basis in their own yard.
Two-thirds (66%) of residents with a lawn or garden stated that they use a lawn care service at least once a year. 71% of residents with a lawn or garden reported using fertilizer at least once a year. 26% of residents most frequently fertilize their lawn twice a year, while 23% either never or only fertilize when a soil test recommends it.
63% of residents reported taking their vehicle to a commercial car wash, while only 21% reported washing their vehicle at home. For those that wash their cars or trucks at home, the majority of residents reported using environmentally-friendly detergent (60%) or only water (29%), and 53% wash on pervious surfaces, including grass, gravel, and/or dirt.
For additional survey results and information about the Northern Virginia Clean Water Partners, visit onlyrain.org or contact Rebecca Murphy, NVRC’s Coastal Program Manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org.