Last Saturday morning, I was heading out for a run, when I noticed my neighbor was watering his lawn. It was 11 a.m., and some of his sprinklers had overshot his lawn and water was flowing directly into the storm drain. The fact that my neighbor was watering during drought restrictions was bad enough, but with the water running straight into the storm drain, I knew there could be some serious water quality impacts, like increased pesticides, fertilizers or sediment ending up in our waters.
I ran back home to grab my phone to report the drought violation (619) 533-7485) to the water department and report the stormwater violation to the stormwater hotline (619) 235-1000). On my way back to my neighbor’s house to get his house number, I saw my neighbor in his garage, putting away his surfboard. I’m not a fan of confrontation, so I was a little scared to say something to him. But I figured that, as a fellow surfer, he was probably as worried about water quality as I am and would want to know what he could do to help out.
So I called to him and asked him if it was his place. I asked if he had heard about the drought watering restrictions, which prohibit lawn watering between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. He hadn’t heard about it and said he would talk to his landlord about it. I walked him around the front of the house and pointed out the water heading straight into the storm drain. I explained how the water runs—untreated—into the ocean, carrying with it bacteria, pesticides, copper, nitrogen, phosphorus, sediment and other pollutants that harm our waterways.
My neighbor was very receptive to what I was saying, and it felt great to be able to share my knowledge and passion for clean water. So, as scary as it may seem to talk with your neighbors about things they’re doing that could harm water quality, whether it’s washing their car or watering their lawns at the wrong time, failing to fix vehicle leaks or other harmful practices, the conversation will be worth the effort.
But if you’re still a little shy, how about leaving your neighbor a note? The City of San Diego put together a great form you can print, fill out and leave with your neighbors.