watersheds.org the world in your watershed search
homeOnline Casinowhat's newabout ussite mapcontact us

Earth Environmental Education Nonpoint Source Pollution: What To Do


Many environmental problems seem to be too large for us to think that anything we do could help. We cannot patch the hole in the ozone layer. We cannot rescue a vanishing species. 

But when it comes to nonpoint source pollution, there are many things we can do, or stop doing, which can have a real impact. Best Management Practices (BMPs) are methods we can all use that lessen the impact of activities which might harm the environment.

All it takes is paying attention to what we and those around us do. Then we can see how what we do affects where we live.

If some factory, or business, or town, was dumping something in the water that was washing downstream and making us sick, we could follow that pollutant back to its source and identify the culprit. That would be the point source.

But with polluted runoff, also called nonpoint source pollution, the problem is coming from many sources, mostly in tiny amounts. The source cannot be identified. It would be like finding a single bacterium in the stream and tracing it back to the cow whose manure washed into the water upstream. Since we cannot follow the pollutant upstream, we must remove it before the water carries it downstream.

What can we do? Here are some ideas, along with some links to more information.



EPA Nonpoint Source Kids Page

The Connection between Karst Topography and Nonpoint Source Pollution


  • Manage animal waste to minimize contamination of surface water and ground water. 
  • Protect drinking water by using fewer pesticides and fertilizers. 
  • Reduce soil erosion by using conservation practices and other best management practices.
  • Use planned grazing systems on pasture and rangeland. 
  • Dispose of pesticides, containers, and the rinse water from tank sprayers in an approved manner.

Field Day at Lawson's Farm: A family of dairy farmers uses good farming practices to protect the creek flowing by their land.

Muddy Day at Pine Creek: Soil that drains from hillsides into streams, called sediment, can contribute to polluted runoff. This photo story shows one example.

Rotational grazing techniques:
Pied Piper Leads Her Cows Into Green Pastures
A Cattle Whisperer's Secrets

Riparian Restoration:
Cattle Farmer Protects a Creekbank by Fencing, Restoring Native Plants

Also this link:
EPA: Managing Nonpoint Source Pollution from Agriculture


  • Don't throw everything into the trash. Some household chemicals, from weed killer to house paint, can be hazardous if not disposed of properly.
Hazardous Waste in the Home: Virtual House Product Locator
  • Keep litter, pet wastes, leaves, and debris out of street gutters and storm drains. These outlets drain directly to lake, streams, rivers, and wetlands.
  • Apply lawn and garden chemicals sparingly and according to directions. Consider organic alternatives.
EPA: Managing Nonpoint Source Pollution from Households 
  • Dispose of used oil, antifreeze, paints, and other household chemicals properly. Do not pour them on the ground or down a drain. Clean up spilled brake fluid, oil, grease, and antifreeze. Do not hose them into the street or onto the ground where they can eventually reach local streams and groundwater. If you are working outdoors, or in a building with a dirt floor, follow these steps: 
1. Drain fluid into a pan and pour it into a sealable container. 
2. Take the container to a household hazardous waste drop-off site. 
3. If your community does not have a local drop-off site for household hazardous wastes, regional or area pick-ups are often scheduled.
  • Control soil erosion on your property. Plant ground cover to stabilize erosion-prone areas.
  • Encourage local government officials to develop construction erosion/sediment control ordinances in your community.
EPA: 8 Tools of Watershed Protection
  • Traditional septic systems, leach fields and lagoons are not always the best choice for wastewater. Ask your county commission or USDA Soil Conservation Service to make information available on alternatives.


  • Ask the Missouri Department of Natural Resources to monitor local mining practices. 
  • Be willing to voice your concerns about acid mine drainage and reclamation projects in your area. 
  • Encourage best management practices for both active and closed mines.


  • Use proper logging and erosion control practices on your forestlands, such as proper construction, maintenance, and closure of logging roads and skid trails. 
  • Report questionable logging practices to the appropriate officials or agencies.

EPA: Forestry Best Management Practices in Watersheds