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A coalition of cities, counties, towns and special districts that share the Russian River watershed have partnered to raise awareness about neighborhood storm drains and their connection to the vitality of our local creeks. Many community members are unaware of the fact that the storm drains in our streets, go directly into local creeks,and ultimately flow into the Russian River.

The campaign focuses on raising regional awareness about impacts to our watershed and water quality by educating residents about one essential fact — only rain should ever go down the storm drain. Neighborhood storm drains are an extension of local creeks and streams; any water, debris, or pollutants that make their way into a storm drain flow untreated to local creeks and eventually into the Russian River. To protect our region’s waterways, it is important that everyone knows what they can do to help limit pollution and be part of the solution.

"The County of Sonoma is proud to be part of this coalition to prevent creek pollution," said the County of Sonoma Board of Supervisors' Chair David Rabbitt. "By working together, we can increase our success in protecting our waterways."

The campaign centers around a simple reminder — storm drains connect streets to creeks — and emphasizes that all members of the community share a responsibility. The agencies participating in the campaign each chose a creek or waterway to inspire communities to act in the best interest of our watershed. 

 “Our watershed creeks feeding the Russian River are truly hidden gems. We are highlighting special creeks in our communities that we are working hard to protect,” said Cloverdale Mayor Melanie Bagby, chairperson of the Russian River Watershed Association Board. “It’s one thing to ask the community to protect our creeks, it’s another to show them what they are protecting.”

In addition to building awareness, the campaign also calls to action the community to help be a part of the solution. The initial campaign focuses on four easy ways to protect creeks, with simple changes that make a big impact on water quality and creek health.

The four topic areas are car washing, pet waste, yard care and trash. The campaign will use a variety of print, digital and radio ads to educate and encourage the community to take action. The campaign promotes simple, and creek-friendly, habits that help keep neighborhood storm drains clear of debris and pollutants. The four topic area campaign messages are as follows:

Car Washing: Washing your car at a professional car wash is ideal, where wastewater is captured and treated or recycled. If you wash at home, divert water to where it can soak into the ground, like a lawn or planter strip. Use a bucket and empty soapy wash water into a sink. Remember, any water that goes into the gutter, goes directly into our creeks untreated.

 Pet Waste: Scoop the poop. Sure, it’s the neighborly thing to do on a walk, but managing pet waste in your backyard is important too. Scoop, and toss pet poop into your garbage bin before water has a chance to transport pollutants (i.e. bacteria) it into a backyard drain, that flows untreated to a nearby storm drain.

Yard Care: When tending to your yard or garden, check the weather and your watering schedule. Runoff from rain, or even irrigation, can wash fertilizer, herbicides, landscape materials, compost and leaf debris into the storm drain, causing potential impacts to our local creeks. Remember — timing is everything.

Trash: Pick up all trash you see in the street before water or wind arrives and carries it to a nearby storm drain. If it is out of the street, it is away from our creeks.

“We are excited to help our community build a stronger relationship with our creeks. Simple changes make a big impact,” said Santa Rosa City Councilwoman Victoria Fleming, a member of the Russian River Watershed Board. “This will be a multi-year effort to increase our community’s connection with our beautiful creeks and change behaviors to reduce creek pollution.”

— Submitted by the County of Sonoma

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