Hamilton County Water Quality Department

Report Water Pollution Illicit Report


Test Your Stormwater Knowledge


What is a watershed?:
 Any area of land that drains to a common outlet with identifiable boundaries that integrate terrestrial, aquatic, and geologic features.
 A watershed can be as small as a yard, or as large as a river basin that drains into the ocean.
 Water collects as it flows from high elevation to lower elevation.
 Watersheds can transport pollutants such as oil, pathogens, sediment, chemicals, trash, and nutrients into a receiving body of water.
 We are all stakeholders in the health of our water. It’s our shared responsibility to work to keep pollutants out of our waterways.

Everyone lives in a watershed. Enter your address below to see what watershed you live in.


Landscaping, Gardening & Pest Control
Landscaping and gardening can be major contributors to storm water pollution. Soils, yard wastes, over-watering, and garden chemicals become part of the urban runoff mix that winds its way through streets, gutters and storm drains before entering our river tributaries. Over-watering lawns and using sprinklers that function improperly not only waste water, but increase pollutants that flow into storm drains. Chemicals are washed off lawns and landscaped areas killing insects, poisoning fish, and contaminate ground and surface water. Improper application of fertilizer can cause an algal bloom. Leaves, grass clippings and tree trimmings that are swept or blown into the street and gutter also cause storm water pollution. These wastes clog catch basins, increasing the risk of flooding on your street, and carry lawn chemicals into the river.
  1. General Landscaping Tips
    • Protect stockpiles and materials from wind and rain by storing them under tarps or secured plastic sheeting.
    • Schedule grading and excavation projects for dry weather.
    • Use temporary check dams or ditches to divert runoff away from storm drains.
    • Prevent erosion by planting fast-growing annual and perennial grasses. Grass blades reduce the erosive effects of rain drops and the roots bind the soil.

  2. Garden and Lawn Maintenance
    • Do not over water lawns or gardens. Conserve water by using irrigation practices such as drip irrigation, soaker hoses, or micro-spray systems.
    • Do not blow or rake leaves into the street, gutter or storm drains.
    • Compost the clippings at home and use the compost around your plants.
    • Use organic or non-toxic fertilizers.
    • Do not over fertilize and do not fertilize near ditches, streams. or other water bodies.
    • Store pesticides, fertilizers, and other chemicals in a covered area to prevent runoff.

  3. Consider These Pesticide Alternatives
    • The "chemicals-only" approach to pest control is only a temporary fix. A more common sense approach is needed for a long-term solution. It’s called physical controls which include:
      • Caulking holes
      • Hand picking
      • Barriers
      • Traps

  4. Safe Substitutes for Pest Control
    • Garden Aphids and Mites:
      Mix 1 tablespoon of liquid soap and 1 cup of vegetable oil. Add 1 teaspoon of the mixture to a cup of water and spray. (Oil may harm vegetable plants in the cabbage family).
    • Caterpillars:
      When caterpillars are eating, apply products containing Bacillus thuringiensis to leaves.
    • Ants:
      Place boric acid dust or hydramethylnon baits in problem areas, cracks and insect walkways. Be sure it is inaccessible to children and pets (it is a mild poison).
    • Roaches:
      Apply boric acid dust to cracks and entry points (see ants above). Place bay leaves on pantry shelves.

  5. If You Must Use Pesticides...
    • Use a pesticide that is specifically designed to control your pest. The insect should be listed on the label. Approximately 90% of the insects on your lawn and garden are not harmful.
    • Read labels! Use only as directed. In their zeal to control the problem, many gardeners use pesticides at over 20 times the rate farmers do.

  6. Pesticide Disposal
    • Household toxics- such as pesticides, cleansers, and motor oil- can pollute our streams and river and poison groundwater if disposed of in storm drains or gutters.
    • Rinse empty pesticide containers and use rinse water as you would the product.
A smart yard is in balance with the local environment for the benefit of both people and our ecosystem. You can participate in the program by learning about sustainable practices for healthy landscapes, setting goals, and adopting recommended practices.

Check out Tennessee Smart Yards
Please choose native plants!

In partnership with the City of Chattanooga and Hamilton County, the RainSmart Yards initiative was founded in 2018 under the name My Tennessee: Clean Water Starts Here. This award program recognizes creek-friendly yards that capture and retain stormwater during rain events, as well as create habitat for native plants and pollinators.

RainSmart Yards

Automotive Care
Many common car maintenance routines contribute to storm water pollution. Washing cars or pouring used motor oil into a gutter or storm drain pollutes our streams and the Tennessee River. Water runoff from streets, parking lots and driveways collects oil and grease dripped from cars, asbestos worn from brake linings, zinc from tires, and organic compounds and metals from spilled fuels. These chemicals drain into the Tennessee River and its tributaries, harming fish and aquatic life. Oil and grease, clog fish gills and block oxygen from entering the water. If oxygen levels in the water become too low, fish and other aquatic organisms die.
Best Management Practices such as handling, storing, and disposing of materials properly can prevent pollutants from entering the storm drains.
  1. Cleaning Work Sites
    • Don’t hose down your garage floor or driveway. It is best to sweep it regularly. Use non-toxic cleaning products. Baking soda paste works well on battery heads, cable clamps, and chrome; mix soda with a mild, biodegradable dishwashing soap for wheels and tires; for windows, mix white vinegar or lemon juice with water.

  2. Automotive Fluids
    • Regular car maintenance prevents fluids from leaking onto streets and washing into storm drains.
    • Change fluids carefully. Use a drip pan to avoid spills.
    • Prevent leaks by draining fluids such as unused gas, transmission and hydraulic oil, brake and radiator fluid from vehicles or other equipment kept in storage.
    • Reduce the chance of spills by using a funnel when pouring liquids and place a tray underneath to catch spills. Place drip pans under the spouts of liquid storage containers.
    • Clean up spills immediately.

  3. Spill Clean-up
    • Prepare and use easy to find spill containment and cleanup kits. Include safety equipment and cleanup materials appropriate to the type and quantity of materials that could spill. For small spills, pour kitty litter, sawdust or cornmeal on spills to bind liquids. Even small spills of antifreeze can kill animals. Do not wash these spills with water; use an absorbent listed above. For information on proper disposal, contact the Tennessee Division of Solid Waste Assistance at (615) 532-0091.
    • If you choose to wash vehicles at home, use biodegradable, phosphate-free detergent.
    • Use a bucket (not a running hose) to wash and rinse cars and conserve water.
    • Wash on a grass, not an impervious surface.

  4. Recycle the following:
    • Metal scraps
    • Water-based paints
    • Used tires
    • Paper and cardboard
    • Container glass, aluminum, and tin
    • Used oils
    • Antifreeze

  5. Washing Vehicles
    • Prevent oil and grease, suspended solids and toxins from washing into storm drains. Use the car wash - they are designed so that water drains to the sewer system and is treated.

Resources for Teachers

Join us for a Workshop

We partner with Bradley County and the City of Cleveland to offer the following workshops for area teachers.
Project Wet
Project WET
About Project WET Curriculum:
  • Topics:
    Water Quality, Wetlands, Water Conservation, Watersheds, Sanitation and Hygiene, Native American, Regional Watersheds, Oceans, Natural Disasters, General Water, Water History, Ground Water.
  • Subjects:
    Math, Technology, Health, Social Studies, Language Arts, Science, Geography, History, Economics, Environmental Education, Arts, P.E., Civics/Government.
  • Grade Levels:
    Pre-K through 12th and Professional Development.
  • Meets Common Core English Language Arts, Common Core Math, Next Generation Science.
  • See our workshop featured on Tennessee Wild Side.
Project Wild
Project Wild
About Project WILD Curriculum:
  • Field Investigation Activities:
    Research environmental topics or issues in local areas by implementing outdoor field investigations. Through new and expanded activities, students learn methods and protocol for conducting scientific investigations, including how to formulate a research question, choosing a viable study site, engaging in systematic data collection and analysis, and applying field ethics.
  • "In Step with STEM" Activity Extensions:
    This component guides students through deeper investigations and uses a variety of tools as part of their problem-solving efforts.
  • WILD Work":
    A career component has been added to all activities to tie in real occupations in the fields of wildlife management and conservation with every lesson.
  • Outdoor Components:
    We are getting students outside with every activity!
Aquatic Wild
Aquatic Wild
Aquatic WILD uses the simple, successful format of Project WILD activities and professional training workshops but with an emphasis on aquatic wildlife and aquatic ecology.
We currently have two EnviroScape models available for educators to borrow. If you would prefer, we can arrange for a staff member to provide the demonstration for your class. Please contact Bonnie Capley, BonnieC@HamiltonTN.gov , for more information.
About EnviroScapes and K-12 Education
K-12 educators are using EnviroScape as a means of educating all students, at every level. EnviroScape is proud to offer a product that has been implemented district wide in many states and to have EnviroScape models included in STEM initiatives nationwide Teachers are bombarded with pressure to “teach to the test”. EnviroScape models are an effective and unforgettable lesson which simplifies complex environmental science issues. Natural Resources, Watersheds, Wetlands, Erosion & Recycling topics are covered in state standards of learning across the country, and EnviroScape offers the visual, tactile tool that teachers need to create excitement and simplification in depicting important issues. Trying to inspire STEM careers and correlations? Let EnviroScape enrich student interest in environmental science, planning, engineering and more. Our series of models allows students to be creative and experiment with real-world land management strategies while demonstrating how science and engineering can help lessen our impact on the environment.
EnviroScape and Higher Education
Used in natural resources, environmental science and engineering classes. Students develop scenarios and pollution control solutions, and test their hypothesis by demonstrating them on the model. EnviroScape provides observation and simulation, in real time, of the interactions of precipitation with various land use practices, and the impacts they have on streams, lakes, water supplies, and ground water. The models are used for simulation of both point and nonpoint source pollution, creation of floods, impact of paving, effectiveness of planting buffers, and more. University students can then take their knowledge and the portable models into their community to train, teach, and provide in-service to local schools on current environmental education topics. It’s a great tool to implement service learning initiatives, and because EnviroScape is portable, engaging and informative, students can take their message anywhere! EnviroScape is further used by university Cooperative Extensions, Stream Teams, and outreach centers to educate the community about water quality issues.
The attached activity was created for public education by Tennessee WaterWorks! through Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU). (Attach the activity only, not the tri-fold flyer).
The attached coloring book was created by FEMA Flood Smart. The coloring book teaches children about how rain gardens can make their home safer by reducing the flood risk.
Created by the Tennessee Stormwater Association, the TENSI Activity Book is a fun and informative resource for children.