When it rains in a forest, most of the water sinks into the ground. But when it rains in a city like Athens, most of that water becomes stormwater runoff. Runoff runs alongside sidewalks and roads, picking up pollutants such as pet waste on its way to the storm drains. Anything that ends up in the stormdrains eventually flows into our waterways.
Because runoff is not treated, it carries pet waste directly into our streams and rivers.
When pet waste is in our rivers and streams, it not only harms our water but also our health. Pet waste can contain bacteria and parasites like E. coli and roundworm, which can make people and other animals sick.
Pet waste can kill aquatic life and disrupt stream habitats. When pet waste decays, it uses up the oxygen in the water. Aquatic plants and animals need oxygen to survive, so when the oxygen levels drop, they start to die. Pet waste in our water can also lead to harmful algal blooms. The algae use oxygen as well, leaving even less oxygen for the plants and animals that need it.
When our waters are polluted by pet waste, we can no longer use them for swimming or fishing. Pollution in our waters also makes drinking water treatment more costly and difficult. Pollution also kills animals and plants living in our waters. While pollution is bad, the good thing is that you can make a difference! Start with something small like picking up your pet's waste and encouraging others to do the same!