Most people who live in Tucson rejoice when the Monsoons (or ANY rain for that matter) start bringing life once again to our beautiful, fragile desert.  But as with most interactions between nature and humans, there are things to consider.

When it does rain in Tucson, rainwater flows through our yards and into our streets. The rainwater continues down storm drains and into our desert washes. That’s an easy visual and we’ve all seen it.  What we don’t always see is what the water picks up along the journey. This is where the human factor kicks in big time.  The fast-moving water can, and  frequently does, pick up all kinds of things we probably don’t even think about. They are contaminants – things like oil from oil leaks, car wash soap and residue (from washing your car in your driveway) and exhaust particles.  Nasty, harmful stuff.

Which leads me to green streets = healthy communites.  Ideally, if we all drove less and used alternative modes of transportation, like  riding our bikes, walking or riding the bus, we would all help to cut down on the stormwater pollutants associated with vehicle usage.

Truth be told, most  of us are going to drive our cars but we can still make a difference and work towards greener streets. At a minimum, we can make sure our vehicles are regularly maintained. Minimizing vehicle pollutants will help keep flowing stormwater clean. Since water is obviously not filtered before it flows into our washes, it’s especially important to keep our water clean from the time it hits the ground until it ends up in the wash.

Interested in doing more to get our streets greener and cleaner?  Harvest rainwater to support vegetation or gardens  in your yard. The vegetation then helps to filter stormwater thus preventing polluted water from entering the washes. Plant roots and bacteria in soil also break down pollutants such as nitrogen and hydrocarbons. Added bonus?  Harvesting water reduces potable water use, making landscapes drought resilient.  Gotta love that.

Want to learn more about reducing pollution or rainwater harvesting?  Want to learn more about why green streets = healthier communities? Please visit Clean Water Starts With Me on Facebook or at

Want to be a part of making a difference that won’t take too long?  Pima Association of Governments is conducting a survey on its stormwater outreach. If you want to participate, please click here to provide your feedback.

Small steps, big impact.