Our Pets and Our Water: What's the Connection?

Bridger the water-loving dogWe've all been there. Striding confidently down a city sidewalk, powering up a hiking trail, hanging out with neighbors in the yard...when a telltale odor or unpleasant footfall lets us know that we've failed to avoid the result of a dog's call of nature. Stepping in a pile of dog doo is more than unpleasant, however. It can also be dangerous for the water on which we all depend. Here's how the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency explains it:

When pet waste is improperly disposed of, it can be picked up by stormwater runoff and washed into stormdrains or nearby waterbodies.  Since stormdrains do not always connect to treatment facilities, untreated animal feces often end up in lakes and streams, causing significant water pollution.     

Decaying pet waste consumes oxygen and sometimes releases ammonia. Low oxygen levels and ammonia can damage the health of fish and other aquatic life. Pet waste carries bacteria, viruses, and parasites that can threaten the health of humans and wildlife.  Pet waste also contains nutrients that promote weed and algae growth (eutrophication).  Cloudy and green, Eutrophic water makes swimming and recreation unappealing or even unhealthy.

So what's a responsible pet owner to do? The answer is simple but not easy: pick up your dog's poop and dispose of it properly. One method for disposal is to remove the doo and flush it down the toilet, allowing the community sewage treatment plant or a septic system to treat the pet waste and eliminate potentially harmful bacteria such as E. coli. Another option is to bag up the waste, seal the bag and throw it in the trash. Many communities have started offering pet waste bags in parks and on trails to encourage this.

Bio-buddy pet waste bag roll

Project WET recently partnered with Bio-Buddy, a pet waste bag company, to print pet waste bags with light-hearted educational messaging. The bags are available for individuals as well as larger organizations such as municipal water districts, parks departments, homeowners' associations, pet-friendly businesses and more. They make a great outreach tool for MS4 Municipal Storm Water Management Plans, especially when combined with the Storm Water children's activity booklet.

Considering that the number of pets worldwide is increasing, taking care of our doodie duty is more important than ever for the sake of our most precious natural resource, water.

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