Roughly 17 million people live in the Chesapeake watershed and this figure is growing by about 130,000 each year. As the population grows, so does its impact. Everything from driving cars to spreading lawn fertilizer affects the water quality of local streams and rivers and ultimately the Bay

Gift giving highlights the holiday season each year. In addition to presents for friends and family, giving also includes charitable activities in one's community.

This is the perfect time to give something back to the natural community and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay. If each of us adopts some of the activities on this "wish list," we can make a difference and reduce our impacts.

Conserve Water

Conserving water means that less of it has to be treated in a sewage treatment plant or a septic system. Energy is also conserved by reducing the amount of water that needs to be pumped. Ways to reduce water include:

  • Fix leaky toilets and faucets.
  • Take short showers instead of baths.
  • Turn off water when not in use while brushing teeth, shaving, and washing dishes.
  • Install water-saving devices in the bathroom.
  • Run only full loads of laundry and dishes.

Reduce Electricity Usage

Reducing electricity will decrease the amount that needs to be generated by fossil fuel power plants which will, in turn, reduce the amount of nutrients and toxic substances entering the watershed. To reduce electricity:

  • Turn off the television, radio and lights when not in use.
  • Run dishwashers, washing machines and dryers only when full.
  • Hang clothes outside to dry instead of using electric dryers.
  • Use energy-efficient appliances.
  • Make sure your house is properly insulated.
  • Replace incandescent light bulbs with those that last longer, such as compact fluorescent bulbs.

Properly Maintain Septic Systems

  • Owners of septic systems should have them pumped out every three to five years. This allows the septic tank to operate efficiently.
  • Be careful not to flush or pour anything into drains that will kill the bacteria living in a septic tank. Healthy colonies of bacteria are necessary for the process that treats wastewater in the septic tank, reducing the nutrient inputs to the groundwater.
  • Don't use garbage disposals; they contribute unnecessary solids and grease to a septic system. Use a compost pile instead.
  • Don't plant trees or shrubs near the drain field because their roots can clog the drain lines.
  • Distribute laundry loads throughout the week to avoid overloading the system on any given day.

Reduce the Input of Toxic Chemicals

  • Use alternative, nontoxic products, like phosphate-free detergents and water-based products.
  • Never pour household chemicals down drains. Read the labels to learn how to dispose of them properly. Contact local government offices to find out about programs for disposing of household hazardous waste and recycling.

Practice Conservation Landscaping

  • Plant native species, which generally require less watering, fertilizers, pesticides and overall maintenance.
  • Decrease the size of one's lawn. Replace the lawn with shrubs, trees, gardens or meadows.
  • Make sure gutters and sprinklers drain into grass or gravel areas to reduce runoff.
  • Spread mulch on bare ground to help prevent erosion and runoff.
  • Try safer alternatives for controlling pests. If one must buy toxic products, choose the least toxic product and never buy or use more than what is needed.
  • Start a compost pile to create a soil conditioner.
  • Dispose of used motor oil and antifreeze at a gas station or a landfill with an oil recycling program.

Reduce Driving Mileage

Reducing one's driving mileage reduces the amount of nutrients and toxic substances entering the watershed. To reduce mileage:

  • Plan trips to minimize miles driven. Combine shopping and other errands to avoid unnecessary trips.
  • Use public transportation. Bicycle or walk whenever possible.
  • Join a carpool or ride-sharing program.
  • If possible, telecommute to work.
  • Purchase fuel-efficient automobiles.

Maintain Fuel Efficiency

  • Maintain and properly inflate tires. On average, tires lose about 1 pound per square inch per month and 1 psi for every 10-degree drop in temperature.
  • Replace the air filter, when needed. Clogged air filters can cause up to a 10 percent increase in fuel consumption.
  • Avoid unnecessary idling. Most new cars do not need to be warmed up. Unnecessary idling wastes fuel, costs money and pollutes the air.

Need More Gift Ideas for the Chesapeake Bay?

There are many simple or more involved activities you can do to help the Chesapeake Bay. For information, visit these websites: