Tips for the Home

You can help keep our creeks, beaches and parks clean by doing 9 Simple Things.  This page also provides homeowners with simple, cost-effective home improvement projects and practices to improve water quality by reducing storm water runoff and pollutant concentrations. Watch the short video, Reduce Runoff: Slow It Down, Spread It Out, Soak It In; that highlights green techniques such as rain gardens, green roofs and rain barrels.

Increase Pervious Surfaces

Permeable Concrete

Permeable driveway or parking areas allow for the infiltration of rainwater into the underlying soil.

Turf Driveways

Minimize potentially large impermeable areas.

Crushed Stone or Gravel

Green Roofs

Green roofs create a lightweight, permeable vegetative surface on an impervious roof area. Moss, grass, herbs, wildflowers, and native plants can be used, creating an aesthetically pleasing roof landscape.

The systems start with a high strength rubber membrane placed over the base roof structure. Various layers above the rubber may contain insulation, filter and drainage media, separation fabrics, lightweight growth media, vegetation, and wind erosion fabric.

Reduce Runoff

Rain Barrels

Rain barrels are low cost, effective and easily maintainable retention devices that capture rooftop rooftop runoff. The water can be used later for dry-period lawn and garden irrigation.

Rain Gardens

Rain gardens make functional landscapes by infiltrating 30% more rainwater than lawn and by processing pollutants. Their purpose is to provide a storage area, away from the house, where storm water collects and filters into the soil. Rain gardens are typically landscaped with native plants and grasses, selected according to their moisture requirements and ability to tolerate pollutants. Rain gardens can be easily located in natural depressions or near downspouts. For more information on Rain Gardens: Rain Gardens: A How-To Manual for Homeowners Rain Gardens: A Household Way to Improve Water Quality in Your Neighborhood Watch "Make the Water Go-Disconnecting Downspouts"  (5:36)

Soil Improvements

Adding organic matter to soil improves infiltration, water retention, drainage. Mulch protects bare soil from erosion.

A free mulch pile is maintained at the South Coast Recycling and Transfer Station, located at 4430 Calle Real. The free pile is accessible to households at all times during the day throughout the year. Qualified trucks (no pickup trucks or trailers) may be loaded with mulch for a loading fee of $15.00. Call (805) 681-4345 for more details. The County also delivers mulch for a fee of $10.00 per ton. To schedule a delivery of mulch, call (805) 681-4981. Visit for more information.

Native Landscaping

Locally native plants are drought resistant, low maintenance and well adapted to our climate and biosphere. Their deep roots increase the soils capacity to hold water and stabilize the soil which decreases erosion. Native plants thrive naturally and using them in your landscape significantly reduces the need for irrigation, fertilizers and pesticides. For more on native landscaping see the California Native Plant Society's brochure Gardening with California Native Plants.

Preserving existing wooded areas and mature trees reduces erosion as their extensive root systems absorb water over a large area. A mature tree canopy slows impact of rainwater on the soil.

Prevent Pollution

Reduce Use of Fertilizers and Pesticides

Rain and runoff from landscaped areas may contain fertilizers and pesticides that are harmful to aquatic life. Use biological or physical controls whenever possible. See our Landscaping page or A Gardener's Guide to Clean Water for more information.

Don't Overwater

How many times have you seen this in your neighborhood? Overwatering leads to runoff which leads to water pollution. Utilize irrigation scheduling and technology. Visit  for more information, tips, rebates and programs in our community.

Sweep Up - Don't Hose Down

Sweep up yard waste and either compost or dispose of in a green waste bin. Utilize compost for soil improvements as discussed above.

Compost Bin Sale

The County of Santa Barbara has Earth Machine composting bins on sale for $45.00, a savings of over 50 percent off the retail price. To obtain more information, please visit .

Washing Your Car

When we wash our cars on the street, oil and soapy water runs into the gutter, down the storm drain and straight to the creeks and ocean. Pollutants associated with wash water include dirt, oil, fuel residues, metals, paint and any cleaners used, such as acid, solvent, detergents or degreasers. Biochemical processes break down pollution in the water, using oxygen that aquatic organisms need to survive.

Where to Wash Your Car

  1. Wash your car at a commercial car wash where the water is collected and treated
  2. If you wash your vehicle at home, wash it on grass, gravel, or other permeable surface to absorb the water, and do not let wash water reach the street
  3. If you have no suitable area to wash your car, look for an alternative location. Perhaps your friends or neighbors have a suitable area you can use

When You Wash Your Car

  1. Use a shutoff nozzle on your hose or a bucket to save water
  2. Use biodegradeable soaps or use detergents and soaps sparingly. Better still, just use plain water, a coarse sponge, and a little elbow grease
  3. Do not dump excess water on the driveway, in the gutter, or down the storm drain. Leftover water should be poured down a household sink or toilet so that it will flow to the wastewater treatment plant. Or dispose of waste water onto a garden or lawn

Please refer to our Automotive Brochure for more information. 

How Should I Dispose Of...?

Prescription Drugs

Take advantage of Project Medicine Cabinet . The Santa Barbara County's Resource Recovery and Waste Management Division has teamed up with the Sheriff's Department to provide free drop-boxes at each of the Sheriff's nine substations throughout the County.  Residents can bring all types of unwanted medications, including prescription and over-the counter drugs.

Used Kitty Litter

While we tend to focus on the picking up of dog waste, pathogens contained in cat waste can pose a serious health threat to humans and can also make their way into our waterways where they can potentially cause a pollution problem.

  • The preferable way to dispose of kitty litter is to throw it in the trash
  • Composting or spreading used kitty litter made from biodegradadable materials like corn, pine, or newspaper and other pet waste in the backyard may seem like a good idea but according to compost experts, the pathogens and parasites within the waste are not properly treated or removed under most compost conditions. Pathogens contained in both the feces and the urine will likely just sit and not be eaten by microorganisms, so they will continue to pose a health hazard
  • Some wastewater treatment facilities ask that you do not flush kitty litter, even those claiming to be biodegradable or flushable since it may clog or damage your pipes as well as the pipes and equipment at the wastewater treatment plant

Swimming Pool and Spa Water

Many chemicals used in pool and spa maintenance are extremely toxic to aquatic life. Chlorine levels in water higher than 0.01 parts per million (ppm) are dangerous to the environment. The typical chlorine level maintained in a pool is 2-4 ppm; which is 200-400 times the harmful level. By doing a few simple things you can protect the fish and critters that live in our creeks.

Disposing of Pool and Spa Water

The preferred method is to discharge pool or spa water onto the land surface provided:

  • The water is dechlorinated/debrominated
  • The pH is between 6.5 and 8.5
  • AND the land area is sufficient to prevent erosion and runoff into a ditch, creek, or other stormwater conveyance

If landscaping is not a viable option, the next best choice is to discharge pool or spa water to the sanitary sewer system. Contact your local sanitary district to make sure the discharge will not create a problem in the sewer system or wastewater treatment plant downstream of your property.

Swimming pool and spa water may be discharged to storm drains ONLY after all of the following conditions are met:

  • Other disposal methods (e.g. sanitary sewer, landscaping) are not possible
  • The pool or spa water is completely dechlorinated/debrominated
  • Concentrations of copper and silver are not harmful to fish or other aquatic life
  • The pH is between 6.5 and 8.5
  • The water is free of any unusual coloration, dirt, suds, or algae
  • There is no discharge of filter media
  • There is no discharge of acid cleaning wastes
  • The water is at ambient temperature. (Heated water should be allowed to cool)

Disposing of Filter Rinsewater and Backwash - It is illegal to discharge filter rinsewater and backwash water to streets, storm drains or creeks.

  • Rinse cartridge filters onto a dirt area and spade the filter residue into the soil
  • Backwash sand and diatomaceous earth filters onto a dirt or rocked area
  • Keep backwash discharges out of the street and storm drain. Temporary wash areas must be adequate to contain all washwaters. The temporary wash area is inadequate if washwater reaches creeks, gutters, or storm drains
  • If you don't have a suitable dirt area, contact your wastewater treatment authority for instructions on discharging to the sanitary sewer. Pretreatment may be required to remove the Diatomaceous Earth from the backwash water and prevent blockages to your sewer line

General Maintenance Tips

  • Clean your pool or spa regularly, maintain proper chlorine levels and maintain filtration and circulation. If you do, you will not have to drain your pool as often
  • Manage pH and water hardness to reduce copper pipe corrosion that can stain your pool and end up in our creeks
  • Before using copper algaecides, try less toxic alternatives. Only use the copper if the others really do not help. Ask your pool maintenance service or store for help resolving persistent algae problems without using copper algaecides
  • Dispose of unwanted pool chemicals properly. Many of them are hazardous wastes when discarded. Visit for more infomation on hazardous waste disposal in Santa Barbara County

Additional Resources