World Soil Day is celebrated each year on December 5th to raise awareness for healthy soils and soil erosion prevention.
Preventing pollution and erosion are ways that we can both preserve the health of our soils and also protect our waterways. Pollutants from soil runoff and erosion can enter our storm drain system and go untreated into local creeks, rivers, and the ocean. Some of the main causes of soil pollution come from everyday actions such as the use of garden chemicals, the improper disposal of trash, yard debris, and pet waste, and runoff from soil erosion. Fertilizers and yard debris can cause harmful algal blooms in our waterways which reduce oxygen levels in the water, pesticides and trash can degrade water quality, and sediment from eroded soil can block out sunlight that aquatic life needs to survive. By managing the use of garden chemicals, properly disposing of trash, and preventing erosion on your property, you will not only help protect our waterways, but you will also be preserving the health of our soils.
Here are some ways we can all do our part on World Soil Day – and every day – to protect the health of our soils and prevent water pollution.
- Upgrade your soil by composting and mulching. In addition to helping your plants thrive, improving the structure of your soil will help retain moisture, slow erosion, and reduce runoff. Composting yard debris, kitchen scraps, and paper products not only improves soil health but also reduces waste and potential pollutants in our waterways. Mulching allows for weed control, retains moisture, and acts as a protective covering that helps prevent soil pollution, erosion, and runoff.
- Manage use of garden chemicals. Pesticides and fertilizers , the invisible pollutants, are harmful to both aquatic and human life if they reach our local streams, rivers, beaches, and groundwater. Limit use of chemicals by using the least amount of product required to get the job done. When possible, use less toxic alternatives to tackling pests and implement Integrated Pest Management (IPM), a process that manages pest problems while minimizing risks to people and the environment. Properly dispose of any unused chemicals by taking them to a local Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) facility. Read more about other ways to manage the use of toxic chemicals in this Guide to Less Toxic Yard & Garden Care.
- Properly dispose of trash, yard debris and pet waste. Place trash and yard debris in curbside receptacles and ensure lids are secure to prevent blown debris. Promptly pick up pet waste and dispose of it in the trash or down the toilet. Recycle single-use plastics like water bottles and food containers to prevent the release of toxic materials into the soil.
- Prevent soil erosion on your property. Soil erosion is the removal of the most fertile top layer of soil through water, wind, or tillage. It not only affects the health of your soil, but it also contributes to flooding, mudslides, and stormwater pollution. One way to prevent soil erosion is by planting trees, shrubs, or ground cover on slopes to help keep topsoil in place. Visit the county’s Storm Water Design webpage for tips on designing features that help reduce soil erosion and water runoff to help maintain the health of our soils and waterways.
Celebrate World Soil Day by learning more about soil issues and soil pollution through videos, publications, contests, and hands-on activities for kids.