The Watershed: H2O

Welcome to!

Welcome to!

Welcome to my home in the Watershed. Here I'll show you how to be an H2O Hero just like me! Just do some exploring and I'll share 11 helpful tips with you. Then use the links or tabs below for even more information.

Clean up after your pets

Did you know that 15 to 20 percent of the bacteria in our waterways come from pet waste? Now that really stinks! Cleaning up after your pet is the simplest thing you can do to keep harmful bacteria from being washed into our storm drains, and eventually into our waterways. For more information, read our "At Home" section.

Make a Rain Barrel

A rain barrel collects rainwater that can be used later to water landscaping around your home. This can save most homeowners over 1,000 gallons of water a year! Collecting and using rainwater helps protect the environment and saves money and energy by reducing the demand for treated tap water. Learn how to make a rain barrel for your home in our H2O Quality 101 section below.

Minimize your use of fertilizers and pesticides

Keep fertilizers and pesticides off driveways, sidewalks, and roads where they would run off into storm drains. Don't apply them near waterways. For more information, read our "At Home" section.

Only Rain Down The Drain

Storm drains connect your neighborhood directly to the nearest stream or body of water. They're different from sanitary sewers, which connect to a treatment facility. it's never a good idea to dump anything into a storm drain because it doesn't get treated and will pollute our waterways. To learn more about storm drains, check out our H2O Quality 101 section.

Recycle Your Oil

When changing your car's oil, please make sure to recycle the old oil. Be sure to clean up any spills by absorbing with kitty litter or sand, then dispose of properly. For more information, read our "At Home" section.

Keep the Pavement Clear of Grass Clippings

Mulching grass clippings or leaving them on your lawn provides a nitrogen-rich fertilizer. Mowing high helps control weed growth. Sweep up grass clippings from roadways and driveways, and DO NOT dump grass clippings or other plant materials into streets, catch basins, or streams — the nutrients will leach from them and enter nearby waterways, spurring unwanted algae growth. For more information, read our "At Home" section.

Mark Storm Drains

Storm drain marking can help deter storm drain dumping and reduce non-point source pollution by informing residents that anything that goes down a storm drain goes directly into a waterbody without being treated. To be an H2O Hero and volunteer to coordinate a storm drain marking event, read our "Get Involved" section.

Maintain a Buffer Strip Along Waterways

Undisturbed (unmowed) vegetation along streams and drainage pathways will capture nutrients that wash off your lawn before they are discharged to the waterway. For more information, read our "At Home" section.

Dispose of Hazardous Chemicals Properly

If your garage is anything like Larry's, it probably has its share of half-used cans of paint, cleaners and chemicals lying around. Some people dump them down the storm drain - or throw them in the trash - just to get rid of them. Learn the right way to dispose of these materials so they don't end up getting into our groundwater and our nearby lakes and streams. For more information, read our "At Home" section.

Visit the Local Car Wash

Sure, Larry likes to keep his wheels looking hot. But he knows that washing his car at the local car wash - instead of in his driveway - is the best way to keep harmful detergents from getting into our local waterways. For more information, read our "At Home" section.

Create a Rain Garden

A rain garden is a planted depression that is designed to absorb rainwater runoff from roofs and driveways. This reduces stormwater runoff by allowing rain to soak into the ground and replenish groundwater. By reducing runoff, rain gardens help protect water quality and reduce erosion and flooding. To install a rain garden in your yard, visit our "Get Involved" section.

At Home
For Teachers
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H2O Quality 101
About Us
Rochester Embayment
Your Watershed
Downspout Disconnect
Rain Gardens
Rain Barrels
Porous Pavers
Green Projects

Downspout Disconnect

What is a Downspout Disconnect?

In some neighborhoods, roof downspouts are piped underground and connected to the storm sewer system at the street. The purpose of this design was to prevent standing water issues. Unfortunately, this arrangement can contribute to flooding downstream and impact water quality.

Disconnecting your roof downspouts from this underground piping, and directing the water to a rain barrel, rain garden, or suitable lawn area, will reduce the amount of water that enters the stormwater system.

Picture of a downspout connected to a storm sewer. Water from the roof goes to the storm drain where it contributes to flooding and pollution. Picture of a disconnected downspout, where water is directed towards the lawn and landscaping, thereby soaking into the ground. (Photo courtesy of the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation)

How can disconnecting your home’s downspout help water quality?

The rainwater coming from a roof mixes with dirty water when it enters the storm drain and becomes polluted. It can also contribute to flooding by adding more water to the nearby waterways during a rain storm. It is estimated that the average size home in Rochester, NY can save over 19,000 gallons of water per year by disconnecting its’ downspouts. This is equal to approximately 380 bathtubs full of water.

Important things you should know before you disconnect your home’s downspouts

Before you disconnect any downspouts, it’s important to give consideration to local building codes and how runoff will be managed so that it does not result in standing water or impact your home or adjacent properties. If your home has downspouts that are connected to the storm sewer system it is relatively easy to disconnect them yourself and route the water to a garden, a lawn, or a rain barrel.

1) Determine if the soils in your yard can infiltrate the water. For a downspout disconnect to work it is important to make sure that your soils will allow the water to soak into the ground rapidly. Generally, sandy soils infiltrate more quickly than soils with large amounts of clay. How do I perform a simple infiltration test, also known as a percolation test on my soil?

It's easy!

1) First dig a hole in the ground, approximately 14” deep and about 6” wide near the downspout on your house that you want to disconnect. Take a hose and completely soak the hole with water and then allow it to fill up to the top. Once it is filled, time how long it takes for the water to soak in and disappear.The hole should be completely empty of water in 24 hours or less. If it does not drain within 24 hours you should not disconnect your downspout because you have poor draining soils. As a general rule, soils should infiltrate about an inch per hour.

2) Make sure that if you disconnect a downspout you are not directing the water to an adjacent property.

3) Make sure that if you disconnect the downspout you are conveying the water at least 10 feet away from the foundation to a flat location with enough space to properly soak it into the ground. This is to ensure that you are not directing water towards the foundation of the home.

Images Courtesy of the Rock Creek Conservancy

How do I disconnect my downspout?

Step by step instructional video on how to disconnect your downspout.

Upcoming H20 Hero Events and Workshops

For pictures and information about local H2O Heroes and Projects, visit Larry's Facebook Page!