The City of Roswell will reopen City Hall (38 Hill Street) and their facility at 1810 Hembree Road on Monday, June 15, 2020. Both facilities will resume normal business hours and will be open for walk-in appointments, Monday-Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Please visit for details and for information regarding the City of Roswell coronavirus response.

Watershed Protection

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Adam Lyon
Stormwater Utility Manager
Phone: 770-594-6258
Fax: 770-641-3717
Email Us

Monday - Friday
8:00 AM - 5:00 PM

105 Dobbs Drive
Roswell, GA 30075

What is a Watershed?

A watershed–the land area that drains to one stream, lake or river–affects the water quality in the water body that it surrounds. Like water bodies (e.g., lakes, rivers, and streams), individual watersheds share similarities but also differ in many ways. Every inch of the United States is part of a watershed–in other words, all land drains into a lake, river, stream or other water body and directly affects its quality. Because we all live on the land, we all live in a watershed—thus watershed condition is important to everyone.

Each month, a watershed protection topic will be highlighted.

Watershed Protection Education Topics

Clean Water Regulations
Report a Problem
How to Protect Streams

Watershed Protection Education Topics

January: Stormwater 101 – Follow that Stormwater

Precipitation that flows over the ground, such as rain or snowmelt, is referred to as stormwater. Over natural terrain, much of this water soaks into the ground before reaching surface waterways. However, when stormwater flows over roads, sidewalks, parking lots, and driveways or impervious surfaces, the water runs over these surfaces and is collected in the stormwater pipes. This stormwater runoff collects pollutants and debris as it flows untreated through stormwater inlet structures directly into our City creeks and streams. These pollutants can decrease the quality of water in our streams and creeks by impacting our local ecosystem and our water supply.

You can decrease the negative impacts of stormwater runoff in two ways. First, consider using rain barrels or building a rain garden to reduce the total stormwater runoff from your property. Second, minimize pollutants and debris in stormwater by reducing pesticide, herbicide, and fertilizer use and by properly recycling household wastes. When combined, these basic steps can go a long way in improving local water quality and ecosystem health.

February: Septic Tank Maintenance

Do you have a septic system? For residents not connected to a municipal wastewater system, a properly functioning septic system can provide adequate and affordable on-site treatment of household wastewater. However, when these systems are not functioning properly, they can pose significant risks to ecosystem and human health. This month's watershed protection tip addresses septic tank maintenance.

Improperly treated waste from malfunctioning septic tanks can potentially leach waste into groundwater which can contaminate nearby wells and surface waters. This leaching poses significant risks to human and aquatic health. Though a malfunctioning septic system can cause significant damage to human and environmental health, proper design of new systems and regular maintenance of existing systems will ensure that homeowners avoid major impacts on the environment and their wallets. Signs of malfunctioning systems include pungent odors, a soggy patch in the lawn, and backed up sinks and toilets. Fixing a septic system can cost thousands of dollars, but preventative maintenance of routine inspection and pumping is a fraction of the cost. Maintain your septic system and you will be protecting yourself, your neighbors, the environment, and your wallet.

Septic Tank Maintenance

March: Hazards of Spring Cleaning: Household Hazardous Waste

It's time for Spring Cleaning, time to get up, and clean up from the months of winter. This month's watershed protection tip focuses on household hazardous waste. Many common household products and cleaners could damage the environment and endanger public water supplies if improperly used or disposed. To keep our rivers and streams, clean bring your household hazardous waste to the Household Hazardous Waste Collection Events.

Here are a few of the materials accepted at the collection event:
  • Paint thinner/turpentine
  • Pesticides including: fertilizers, herbicides, flea and tick products, fungicides, insecticides, rodenticides
  • Undiluted pool chemicals
  • Household cleaners
  • Fluorescent bulbs
  • Propane gas cylinders
  • Mercury thermometers/thermostats
  • Household batteries (non-rechargeable)
  • Aerosols including aerosol paint
  • Automotive brake fluid/used motor oil filters (no other automotive fluids)

Hazardous Waste Disposal

April: Pet Waste Management

This month is the Atlanta Humane Society Annual Pet Parade. In honor of pets and pet owners this month's watershed protection tip is a reminder to pick-up after your pets. According to the American Veterinarian Medical Association, there are 72 million dogs in the United States. The average dog produces three quarters of a pound of waste a day. That means our pets generate 10 million tons of dog poop a year!

Pet waste can carry a wide array of pathogens and contains large amounts of nutrients.

A single gram of pet waste contains an average of 23 million fecal coliform bacteria, some of which cause diseases in humans. When runoff carries this waste into local waters it is a public health concern because of the potential diseases that can be spread through pet waste and an environmental concern because of the reduced oxygen levels that result from algal blooms caused by excess nutrient availability. Much of this can be avoided, however, by simply picking up after your pet.

Doing the right thing is easy! Pick up after your pet every time you take them out. It only takes a minute. Simply scoop the poop with a plastic bag and toss it in the garbage. Never toss garbage in the storm drains.

Pet Waste

May: Rain Barrel/Rain Garden

In the recent past we've seen the weather swing from periods of severe drought and water restrictions to intense rainfall and flooding. When there is abundant rainfall, stormwater moves quickly over roads and parking lots and causes an increase in stormwater runoff volumes and velocities. This water rushes into the streams striping away the soil on the streambanks and turns our creeks and streams into muddy waters. This degrades the aquatic ecosystems as excess amounts of sediment and pollutants enter into local streams, river, ponds, and lakes. This month's watershed protection tip is about rain barrels and rain gardens.

A rain barrel is simply a barrel connected to a building's gutter system that captures and stores rainwater. This water can then be used to irrigate gardens and/or landscaping features. Not only do rain barrels help save residents money on their water bills, they also act as an irrigation supplement when water restrictions are in place. A rain barrel system even helps reduce stormwater runoff by intercepting rainfall during times of excess and releasing it later.

While a rain barrel helps with landscaping irrigation, a rain garden is the landscaping. A rain garden is essentially a vegetated low spot to which surface runoff is diverted. Drains and gutters can be modified to direct rainwater away from storm drains and to the rain garden. Once the water reaches the garden, it infiltrates into the soil where it irrigates the plants, is filtered of sediment and cleansed of many pollutants. A variety of trees, shrubs, flowers and grasses can be planted in these systems, but if native plants are used, the garden will be more resilient and likely to attract local wildlife. This concept is simple, but a well-designed rain garden can not only reduce runoff and pollutant transport, it can also be a property's aesthetic gem.

Rain Barrel and Rain Garden

June: Pressure Washing

Pressure washing can be a great way to clean buildings, pavement, and equipment; however, it can also dislodge pollutants such as paint chips, chemical cleaners, and automotive fluids and convey them to surface waters by way of storm drainage systems. This month's watershed protection tip is about pressure washing. To reduce harmful runoff associated with pressure washing, dry cleaning methods can be used to manually remove loose debris before applying water to the wash area. Dry cleaning methods include brooms, wire brushes, and absorbents and can reduce the amount of pollutants that are carried away by wash water. Dislodged debris and solids should be collected and disposed of appropriately.

When pressure washing, contain the wash water by temporarily blocking storm drains or by diverting the water to areas of vegetation that can allow it to filter into the ground. It is very important that there are no chemical pollutants or cleaners in the wash water as they can filter through to drinking water supplies. Also, don't discharge wash water to roadside ditches since these are part of the stormwater drainage systems that lead directly to rivers and streams.

Pressure Washing

July: Car Washing

Beat the heat this summer at the pool, the splash pad, the beach or the car wash. Commercial car washes are the best location to wash your vehicle to get that summer cruising shine. This month's watershed protection tip is about car washing. Washing your car in your yard or driveway allows soap and pollutants like heavy metals oil and grease to wash into the storm system and pollute local waterways.

Choose a local car wash facility that can wash your car where water is drained to the sanitary system or to a water recycling unit. Commercial car washes are required to dispose of their wastewater properly. If you choose to wash your car at home, try to wash your car in an area where the water will soak into the ground instead of running into the street. Pour out dirty wash water in your lawn — not the stormdrain.

Car Washing

August: Pesticides

Have you battled fire ants and other pesky pests this summer? This month's watershed protection tip is about pesticides. Pesticides, when used in excess, can be harmful to people, pets, beneficial organisms (such as bees and earthworms), surface waters and ground waters. The risk of using pesticides is the greatest when the label directions are not followed exactly as they are printed. Improper use and application of pesticides is against the law.

Learning which pesticide to use for specific applications is paramount to responsible pesticide use. Buying only the amount of pesticide that you need for an application and storing it properly are important considerations to keep in mind when planning to use pesticides. Even though some pesticides are labeled as being natural or biodegradable, they may still contain harmful ingredients. Take the time to learn about the toxicity and persistence of the pesticide you choose to use. If there is pesticide remaining after your application, store it in sturdy, leak-free containers indoors in an area that can contain any leaks. Ideally, calculate and purchase only the amount needed for your specific application.

There are also many strategies that provide natural pest control, known as Integrated Pest Management (IPM), which can minimize the use of chemical pest control products. Maintaining healthy soil and a variety of plants can provide safer, more consistent pest control over the long term by promoting natural controls, such as beneficial insects. Reduce the use and impacts of pesticides by choosing the right plants, proper plant spacing, and mowing grass as high as possible to promote healthy plants and a more naturally balanced lawn.

September: Fertilizers

This month's watershed protection tip is about fertilizers. Everyone wants to get the yard ready for the game day cookout. Before you over fertilize your lawn consider what happens when excess fertilizer washes off the lawn into nearby creeks and streams. Fertilizers can severely damage stream and watershed health. The excess fertilizer can wash into the waterways and stimulate the growth of weeds and algae that can effectively choke slow moving waters and use up the oxygen supply in the water that is used by fish and other aquatic life. Also, most commercial fertilizers contain phosphorous which is known to be a major water pollutant.

Before applying fertilizers, your soil can be tested to determine what kind and what amounts of fertilizer is required depending on the soil use. In some cases, your soil may not require any fertilizer. Should you find that fertilizer is needed to support your desired use, be sure to use the right fertilizer type. In general, nitrogen promotes leafy top growth, phosphorous promotes root growth, and potassium improves plant durability. It is also important to use slow-release and fast-release fertilizers in the right applications. Slow-release fertilizers provide plants with a lower concentration of nutrients over a longer period and are best used on sandy soils. Fast-release fertilizers are best used on clay or compacted soils so that there is less chance fertilizer will be washed off and into waterways.

The best time to begin applying lawn fertilizer is late September or early October to promote deep, healthy root systems that are better equipped to withstand a harsh winter or drought. Also, leaving lawn clippings on the lawn can reduce the need for nitrogen applications drastically. Where applicable and available, consider using organic fertilizer (i.e. manure or bone meal) and reduce the risk of synthetic fertilizers entering the water supply. Other considerations would be increasing the natural vegetation on your property to reduce stormwater runoff.

October: Leaf Management

Fall leaves provide kids with hours of fun. However, they can also block gutters and wash into the storm sewer system, introducing an overload of decaying organic material to local rivers and streams. Leaves are rich in essential nutrients needed by all plants, including carbon, phosphorous, and potassium. Properly managing your yard leaves can greatly enhance the health of your lawn and prevent a buildup of organic material in the local waterways. Mulching leaves with a mower and leaving them on the lawn allows the lawn to use the nutrients from the dead leaves.

Leaves can also provide organic "brown" material for composting, which can even be bagged and saved for another time. The City of Roswell offers yard debris curbside pick-up. Use the lawn debris bags sold at local hardware stores to collect all your yard waste. Then set them by the curb for pick-up. These are all constructive ways to use fallen leaves and remove them from your yard and gutters so that they stay out of the waterways.

November: Fats, Oils, and Grease

As you gear up for cooking the perfect Thanksgiving dinner, one thing to keep in mind is how you'll manage the fats, oil, and grease from that deliciously fried turkey. Fats, oil, and grease (FOG) are the by-products of cooking, food preparation, and baking. Sources include cheese, butter, gravy, rendered fat from meat, ice cream, peanut butter, and salad dressing. When poured down the drain, FOG hardens in sewer pipes. This restricts the capacity of the sewer pipes to convey the waste to the treatment plant and, over time, can completely block the pipes and force sewage back up into a home, street, or creek. Help maintain the sewer system so that it remains dependable and long lasting. System maintenance, repair and replacement, and overflow cleanups are all factored in to your water bill.

There are simple ways that you can help to protect against FOG sewer blockages. Never pour FOG down the drain. Scrape leftover food into the trash instead of the sink, even if you have a garbage disposal. Pour oil and grease from pans into a container that you can dispose of in the trash can before washing your pans. Fryer grease should be cooled, placed in a sealed container, and disposed of in the trash. Use sink strainers to catch food and empty it in the trash can.

December: Stream Buffer Protection

The stream buffer is the protective natural area of vegetation that runs alongside the stream channel. An effective buffer begins at the top of the stream bank and extends at least 50 feet on either side of the stream. There are many benefits for the stream that the buffer offers, such as slowing high water flow, absorbing and filtering pollutants, trapping sediment, and stabilizing the streambanks. The buffer also offers benefits for the actual stream channel that include shade, habitat, and nutrition for fish and other aquatic organisms.

Property and homeowners with streams and open channels have an important responsibility regarding stream health. Often, homeowners prevent the establishment of streamside vegetation by extending their lawn to the edge of the stream bank, which allows for pesticides, fertilizers, pet waste, and sediment to run off from the property directly in the stream. Further, the roots of grass are not robust enough to protect against streambank erosion, so every time it rains, the streambank is eroded and property loss occurs.

Actively removing debris and trash from the stream is an easy way to contribute to the health of the stream that flows through your property. Many subdivisions and homeowner associations organize community clean-up events to beautify the stream by picking up litter and removing trash from the stream. Natural debris, however, such as trees and limbs, provide vital habitat for stream fauna and should not be removed in the same way that discarded tires should. Stream buffers are an often-overlooked asset to stream health, but with your help, we can maintain and improve buffer protection in our communities and promote a healthy watershed.