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Skaggs: Quality of water affected by runoff
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With the ongoing coverage of our lingering drought, much of the "water talk" has focused on water quantity. And while quantity is important, we must not forget water quality.

Whether you live in the city or the county; whether your home is large or small; whether you have a lot of time and money to invest in your yard or just a little, there is something you can do to improve water quality. The following suggestions are simple steps you can take to help keep our water clean.

Mow the lawn often enough to leave grass clippings on the lawn.

Keep fallen leaves out of the storm gutter or ditch, using them around the yard as mulch or by adding them to the compost pile.

Plant an extra tree for multiple environmental benefits, especially where it becomes part of a planting bed or "naturalized" landscape area that recycles leaves, twigs and other yard waste.

Seed bare soil and cover it with mulch as soon as possible to minimize erosion. Disturb no more ground than necessary for a project, while preserving existing vegetation.

Direct roof downspouts away from foundations and driveways to planting beds and lawns where the water can safely soak into the ground. Use a rain barrel where practical.

Use lawn and garden chemicals carefully and sparingly. Pesticides should be considered as one tool in your integrated pest management arsenal.

Keep cars tuned up and in good operating condition. Check for drips and repair leaks immediately to keep nuisance oils off pavement.

If using a septic tank system, maintain it properly through regular inspections and licensed pumping every few years.

Plan your landscape with environmental health in mind, reducing the area that is heavily maintained.

Clean up pet waste, from which nutrients and bacteria could be washed toward lakes and streams.

If you have excess grass clippings, use the clippings as mulch or compost them.

For more information on what you can do, visit the U.S. EPA Web site's Source Water Protection.

Billy Skaggs is an agricultural agent and Hall County Extension Coordinator. Phone: 770-531-6988. Fax: 770-531-3994.

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