Best management practices (BMPs) describe ways to manage your land or your activities to reduce or prevent pollution of surface and groundwater near you. These practices protect your family's health, but also help protect the other uses of our water such as recreation, animal habitat, fisheries, and agricultural uses such as irrigation or stock watering. Best management practices are usually simple and low tech, and benefit everybody.
If you aren't sure what activities may be polluting water near you, visit our Risks to Your Water page or take a simple survey to help identify problems. We also provide more detailed surveys that help you evaluate risks from different types of pollutants, including fertilizers, pesticides, oil and gas products, hazardous waste, animal waste, feed lots, and septic tanks. See our fact sheets on treating pollutant sources to protect the water near you.
If your drinking water comes from a municipal source, it is tested regularly to assure high quality. If your drinking comes from a private or small community well, it is your responsibility to test your water. We also provide information on how to interpret your test results, and how to protect your drinking quality. Many municipalities conduct their own programs to prevent pollutants from running off parking lots, roads, and construction sites.
Water from storm drains in most cities and towns does not get treated at a waste water treatment plant, but instead drains directly to local streams, rivers, lakes or reservoirs. Because of this, it is every homeowners responsibility to keep runoff from your property as free from pollutants as possible. Also, NEVER dump anything into a storm drain. This includes wastes such as used oil. While the action of one household may seem insignificant, the combined efforts of entire neighborhoods can make the difference in protecting your local water bodies.
BMPs are often divided into agricultural, urban, or forest BMPs as shown below.
Some examples of agricultural BMPs include safe management of animal waste, controlling pests and nutrients, contour farming, crop rotation, and vegetative buffers near streams. As outlined by the CORE 4 program*, there are 8 types of agricultural BMPs which include:
Click the following links for a check list of common agricultural BMPs:
More information about manure BMPs and protecting your water:
Urban BMPs can be implemented to help reduce pollution in our local water bodies:
1. Use Fertilizers Wisely
-Apply at the right time and in the right amounts. If more fertilizer is applied than the grass can utilize, it can wash into nearby streams and lakes.
-Get a soil test to see what your soil needs.
-Fertilizer with slow release nitrogen is better for the environment.
2. Apply Pesticides Wisely
-Identify the pest, disease, or cause of the problem.
-Learn when and where pesticides are needed.
-Select chemicals that are the least toxic or that break down quickly.
-Always read the label before mixing and applying pesticides.
3. Use Landscaping Practices that Prevent Erosion
-Protect soil by planting groundcover vegetation or by using mulch. Soil washed away by rain can pollute streams and lakes.
-Gardens and construction sites with areas of bare soil, especially on sloped land are prone to erosion.
-Use the mulch setting on your mower and start grass-cycling. Just leave the grass on the lawn. It provides needed nutrients to the soil and grass.
4. Wash Your Vehicle Wisely
-Use a commercial car wash. Waste water from these businesses does not enter the storm drains and is sent to a water treatment facility.
-If washing your car at home, pull your vehicle onto the grass before you start washing. This will help water the yard as well as keep the soapy water from running straight into the storm drain.
5. Dispose of Pet Waste
-Pet waste washed into streams, rivers, or lakes, contributes to nutrient pollution. Pet waste can carry disease carrying organisms.
-Dispose of pet waste properly by either collecting the waste and flushing it down the toilet, burying it in the yard about 5 inches deep, or putting it in the trash.
6. Use and Dispose of Household Chemicals Safely
-Never pour chemicals such as paint or oil onto the yard or directly into storm drains, or the next rain will take the chemicals directly to your local stream.
-See if there is a household chemical collection center near you and drop off chemicals there if possible. These centers provide safe, environmentally friendly disposal and are usually free.
-Look for alternative cleaning products that are less hazardous to the environment.
Click the following links for more information about urban BMPs and protecting your water:
1. Evaluate Existing Roads
-Sometimes upgrading an old road can be more cost-efficient and less damaging than creating roads.
2. Proper Planning of Roads
-Minimize the number, width and length of roads (this will also decrease the amount of maintenance required to maintain the road and save the landowner money).
-Locate roads on well-drained soils whenever possible.
-Keep road grades below 10% when possible. If roads exceed 10% for long distances install road drainage features.
-Have roads follow natural contours as much as possible. This will reduce cuts and fill materials needed and also decrease the amount of disturbed area.
3. Road Construction
- Compact fill material during construction and keep woody debris out of the road base so that the material will not deteriorate and leave voids.
-Trees and shrubs should be maintained at the base of the slope to act as a filter and trap sediments.
Communities working together to prevent storm water pollution. See how your community can effectively reduce water quality impacts of stormwater.
* Conservation Technology Information Center, "Agricultural Management Practices for Water Quality Protection." U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 12 Sept 2008. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 10 Oct 2008 <http://www.epa.gov/watertrain/agmodule/>.