Introduction

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The quality of water directly affects the quality of our lives. Polluted water endangers health -- of family, pets and livestock. Most Washington residents rely on well water, and part of the rain that falls on our land recharges groundwater supplies. Clean surface water -- streams, rivers, ponds and lakes -- can also increase the value of our property.

Washington's economy is dependent on clean water, too, for industrial supply and for public recreation. Our state is now the second largest producer of shellfish in the nation, and millions of residents and visitors enjoy spending time at our many shorelines. But, as an increasing amount of pollution enters streams and rivers, shellfish harvest areas are being restricted, and caution is needed to keep our beaches safe.

Water that doesn't soak into the ground -- whether from rain, snowmelt, farming operations, car washing, or leaking pipes -- is called runoff. The runoff carries whatever it picks up along the way, including animal wastes, herbicides, pesticides, and septic system overflows. What washes away does not go away.

It just flows downstream. As Washington becomes more populated, more pollutants are swept into waterbodies. By changing some of our personal habits, we can help maintain the quality of life in our watershed and lessen impacts downstream. This guide tells how.

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