Don't water the driveway

This writer witnessed a Downey resident hosing down his driveway last Friday, and - aside from the ineluctable "What Is he thinking!?" that sprang from this environmentally conscious brain - the subject matter for this article was instantly born. The action was unwittingly timely, since we will be discussing Downey water issues in this column for the next several weeks.There is more than the simple waste of water at stake here for a job that should be carried out with a push broom. A Google search on the term "driveway pollution" produces at a glance a half dozen examples of the pollutants you wash into the water supply by hosing down your driveway, or by washing your car in the driveway. Included in that initial group of Google entries is the provocative statement: "If you wash your car in the driveway, you might as well wash it in the lake." Specifically, your car has, in all likelihood, deposited small amounts of antifreeze and motor oil, as well as exhaust residue and possibly even metallic particles, on your driveway, not to speak of the sealants that may also have been used on the driveway itself. Add to that the soaps, detergents, cleaners, car wax, and other residues that accumulate from washing your car in the driveway, and you've created a toxic potion that you're sending, in effect, right back into your own drinking water. This polluted water typically re-enters the water supply through storm drains, which infiltrate it back into the groundwater--or gets carried into rivers, lakes, and in our case, the ocean, effectively polluting our own marine backyard. As suggested above, the right way to take care of your driveway is to sweep it with a broom and put what you collect in the trash. Before you dismiss this idea as the overzealous rant of a treehugger, take this into consideration: you're throwing your own money down the drain in two different ways: first, as should be evident to Downey residents conscious of the recent water rate increase, you're wasting your money by using water unnecessarily. Second, but not so obvious, you're wasting your own tax dollars, as those tax dollars must be used to clean up that toxic water you're wantonly hosing down the drain. Dealing with the pollution issues relating to storm water runoff, which includes the water running down your driveway, is complex and expensive to the governmental agencies charged with controlling them, including the City of Downey. And your precious tax dollars are spent partly to try to resolve these issues in a number of not so obvious ways. So, instead of doubly wasting your money, make one simple change in your way of doing things, and "Don't Water the Driveway!" Lars Clutterham is the co-founder of downeygreen, a local non-profit organization advocating sustainability.

********** Published: December 22, 2011 - Volume 10 - Issue 36