Non-point source pollution, or "NPS," is people pollution. It is pollution that comes from everyday living such as walking pets, changing motor oil and putting fertilizer on your lawn. This is contrasted with the big kinds of pollution that we read about in the newspaper, such as oil tank leaks and illegal burying at superfund sites.
Yet, ironically, NPS makes up for a very large amount of the pollution to streams and surface water bodies in the United States. For example, in the case of pesticides, the NPS runs off our lawns and into our streets. From there, it travels into storm drains and then into streams or lakes. Ultimately, it all goes into the ocean.
NPS also affects soil and groundwater. When it rains, NPS can be absorbed into the soil and pollute it. From there, the NPS can be absorbed into the groundwater.
NPS is also the hardest kind of pollution to stop because it comes from everyday kinds of activities. Sooner or later, every government is going to be regulating NPS. It really pays for you to consider what you can do to protect the environment.
First, the lawn and garden is a tremendous source of this problem. Did you know that the average homeowner uses up to ten times more chemicals per acre on their property than do farms? And all of this ends up in streams and groundwater. Fertilizers and pesticides can be dangerous to humans if they find their way into the drinking water supply. Use the least amount necessary and when possible, use environmentally friendly fertilizers.
Its also important to pick up after your pets. Waste from animals, including farm animals, geese and water fowl, contributes to water pollution. However, one of the largest problems comes from waste left by dogs. The waste can quickly find its way into streams and lakes, increasing the bacteria in swimming pools and shellfish water beds so that they become unhealthy. The waste can carry water-born diseases and increase plant and algae growth in lakes, ponds and reservoirs, which adversely affects the climate.
Protecting water bodies from NPS pollution also means maintaining septic systems and household waste water. Do not dispose of household wastes or chemicals in septic systems. They are not made for that purpose and if you use them that way, you are polluting the environment and breaking the law. In addition, maintain your system, keep vehicles and other heavy objects away from disposal fields and plant grass in shallow rooted beds over septic disposal fields.
Car care is also important in terms of diminishing NPS pollution. Automotive products that contain toxic chemicals must never be placed in drains or sewers. Doing so causes pollution. Motor oil must be properly discarded at approved recycling facilities. And if you are washing your car in the driveway, use a low ph detergent. If you are going to use a commercial car wash facility, use one that recycles its water.
Can individuals make a difference? In the case of NPS, it is really up to all of us to stop this problem.