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Monterey Bay Begins on Your Street

Urban Runoff (storm drain pollution) is caused by motor oil, antifreeze, paints, fertilizers, pesticides, trash, particulates from automobiles, construction debris, and household chemicals that are washed down or poured down neighborhood storm drains.  Everything that goes down the storm drain flows directly into creeks, waterways and ultimately the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.  Unlike the water that goes down the drains in kitchens and bathrooms, storm drain water is NOT cleansed by sewage treatment plants.

Improving local water quality begins at your front door.  Here are 10 Tips for Preventing Stormwater Pollution:

  1. Recycle used motor oil and antifreeze (for FREE) by taking it to an auto parts store, hazardous waste collection site or using curbside recycling pickup.
    • When changing your car’s oil, prevent spills by placing cardboard under the oil pan. Use absorbent material such as kitty litter to clean up spills. Never pour used motor oil down storm drains, on the ground, or driveways.
  2. Wash cars on unpaved surfaces, or at a commercial car wash.
    • Leftover soapy water should be poured down a household sink or toilet (to be treated by the sewage plant), not the driveway, gutter, street, or storm drain which lead directly to the bay without treatment.
    • If you are organizing a school or club car wash fundraising event, ensure you protect the Bay by avoiding wash water runoff to storm drains.  Click here to view and download the PDF. 
  3. Inspect and maintain your car regularly to prevent leakage of oil, antifreeze and other toxic fluids.
    • Use a drip tray to catch leaks where your car is parked.
  4. Keep as much of your property landscaped with native plants as possible.
    • Planted areas absorb more rainwater and help water percolate into the ground. Bare soil promotes water runoff. As an alternative to concrete driveways, use permeable paving bricks, which help reduce runoff.
  5. Use non-toxic alternatives to pesticides and organic gardening techniques when possible.
    • Plant native plants which need less water than imported varieties. Use herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers sparingly. Follow label instructions carefully. Do not apply chemicals if rain is forecast. Never dump chemicals in ditches, gutters, storm drains, or waterways. Never use motor oil to kill weeds along fences or in yards. Motor oil poured in soil contaminates water. Take unwanted toxic products to local hazardous waste collection sites.
    • For more information visit Our Water Our World
  6. Sweep driveways, patios, and sidewalks rather than hosing them down into the gutters and storm drains.
    • Put lawn clippings in a compost pile or your green waste bin.
  7. Water only your garden and lawn, not your driveways and sidewalks.
    • Divert garden hoses and rain spouts away from paved surfaces to reduce water runoff from entering storm drains. Consider using a rain barrel to collect water for flower bed and lawn watering.
  8. Pick up all pet waste regularly and dispose of in the trash can, not down the storm drain.
  9. Take unwanted chemicals like paint, pesticides, batteries, and old prescription drugs to your local hazardous waste collection site.
    • Use non-toxic household products, if possible. When using toxic products follow directions carefully and use sparingly. Properly store toxic products away from children. Never dump chemicals down storm drains, ditches, gutters, or waterways.
  10. Please don’t litter and never discard cigarette butts on the street or beaches.
    • Consider participating in a local beach clean-up.  Follow the three R’s of Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.


Volunteer and monitor the local waters flowing into the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary: (831) 647-4201 or visit montereybay.noaa.gov

School Programs

For FREE school programs about stormwater, marine mammals, around the Monterey Bay contact Maris Sidenstecker of MontereySEA at (831) 899-9957.
Learn more about our classroom offerings.