Helping the Gulf
Did you know that you can help the Gulf of Mexico without traveling beyond your driveway? Our region is part of the Mississippi River watershed, an area of land that drains rain water and river water into the Gulf of Mexico. When it storms here, rainwater carries pollutants like fertilizer from farms and lawns, motor oil from driveways and litter from streets into our local waterways, which lead to the Mississippi River. Each summer, excess nitrogen from this polluted runoff causes a low-oxygen area – also known as a ‘dead zone’ – in the Gulf of Mexico that impacts marine life.
Viewer Tip: With millions of gallons of crude oil and chemical dispersants already in Gulf waters, marine life and biodiversity are more vulnerable than ever to other pollutants. No matter where you live in the Mississippi River watershed, you can help protect water quality in the Gulf with these tips:
- Participate in a wetland, river or beach cleanup in your area. Check with your local watershed group or organize your own!
- Never dump oil or other household chemicals in the street or in a storm drain. If you change your own motor oil, make sure to collect it in a clean can with a lid and take it to a service station or household hazardous waste collection site for recycling.
- Use as little fertilizer and pesticide as possible. Most farmers and gardeners can use less fertilizer and still obtain the same amount of crop yield.
- Prevent erosion by mulching and seeding areas where bare soil can be washed away in your yard. Adding mulch or vegetation to bare areas allows water to soak slowly into the ground, rather than running off quickly.
- Instead of sweeping yard waste into the street or storm drain, use it for composting or mulching in your own backyard. You’ll protect your soil, prevent erosion, control weeds…and protect water quality.
Check out the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Mississippi River Basin map to find your location in the watershed: www.epa.gov/msbasin/marb.htm.
( Sources: GulfBase. General Facts about the Gulf of Mexico. http://www.gulfbase.org/facts.php; National Park Service: A Profile of the Mississippi River. http://www.nps.gov/miss/naturescience/profmiss.htm; Frankenberger, Jane and Ron Turco. Hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico: A Reason to Improve Nitrogen. Purdue Animal Issues Briefing AI-6; U.S. EPA National Estuary Program. June 2007. “National Estuary Program Coastal Condition Report.” Available from: http://www.epa.gov/owow/oceans/nepccr/index.html; Dybas, Cheryl l., Dead Zones Spreading in World Oceans, Bioscience 552-557; US EPA Office of Wetlands, Oceans, and Watersheds. www.epa.gov/owow;
Gulf Base: General Facts about the Gulf of Mexico. http://www.gulfbase.org/facts.php;
US EPA Office of Wetlands, Oceans, and Watersheds. Www.epa.gov/owow)