Sustainable Landscaping

intro to the basics
1   choose the right plant for the right spot
2   recycle your yard waste
3   use fertilizers and pesticides responsibly
4   water wisely
5   reduce runoff from your yard and increase groundwater recharge
6   reduce soil erosion. keep it planted and mulched
7   pick up after your pets
8   use and dispose of fuels and hazardous products properly


Pet waste that is left on sidewalks, roads, driveways, parks and yards can mix with rainfall and snowmelt and travel to storm drains and surface waters causing pollution and an increased risk of disease.

It may be difficult to picture how one dog or cat depositing a small amount of animal waste here and there can result in potential water pollution, but studies have shown that the cumulative impact of waste from all the pets, livestock, and resident waterfowl within a watershed can have a significant impact on water quality and may also cause human health risks.

More information on stormwater basics
More information on reducing runoff

Pick up after your pet. When going for walks with your dog, bring along a plastic bag and scooper. Pet waste should also be removed daily from your yard. How should you dispose of it? No solution is perfect, but here are a few choices:

Dispose of solid waste and used cat litter in the trash. Seal it securely in a plastic bag. While this transfers the problem to a landfill, it does protect the larger watershed area from potential pollution.
Flush solid waste down the toilet. Do NOT flush leaves, sticks, debris or cat litter down the toilet!
Bury the waste in a proper spot in your yard about five inches below the ground surface (the upper soil layer is the biologically active layer).

Another option is to install an in-ground pet waste disposal system that works much like a septic tank (this requires a deep hole). Burial is not recommended in areas with poor drainage and high water tables (within 18 to 30 inches from the surface). It is also not an effective option when temperatures drop below 40 degrees F.

Gilbert Stuart Road Demonstration site

Never locate burial areas near a drinking water well, surface waters, storm drains or vegetable gardens.

In larger yards, you can train your dog to use natural woodland areas or areas where grass is not frequently mowed (left at least 4 inches tall). The waste will naturally decompose as long as it is not at a risk of mixing and traveling with stormwater runoff. Do not rely on “natural areas” that are located near surface waters, drinking water wells, or vegetable gardens.

Similarly, dog yards and dog runs should never be located near a drinking water well or immediately upslope of a surface water body. Ideally, the area should be fairly level and well-vegetated and located away from vegetable gardens and children’s play areas. Solid waste should be collected and disposed of using the options listed above.

Don’t feed the waterfowl! It encourages a higher number of birds than natural food supplies can support. These large flocks of birds also deposit large quantities of waste in and around surface waters, impacting water quality.

If you have horses or livestock (including poultry) - it is important to properly store and recycle manure. Livestock yards and pasture also require proper management to reduce potential pollution risks. Keep animals out of streams and ponds - maintain vegetative buffers.

For more information refer to the Healthy Landscapes Small Acreage Livestock Education Program. View our fact sheet and self-assessment series on these topics. View our video, Keeping Livestock: Protecting Water Resources and Health.

For more information on pet waste management

URI CE Home*A*Syst Program factsheet:
Pet Waste and Water Quality Protection

Gilbert Stuart Road Demonstration site

For in-ground pet waste disposal systems contact your local pet supply store. You can also do an internet search on pet waste disposal to obtain a variety of sizes and models.

For more information on livestock and horse best management practices

Keeping Livestock and Horses on Small Acreages: Protecting our drinking water, families, and animals

Video - Keeping Livestock: Protecting Water Resources and Health

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and your local Conservation District for more information on agricultural waste management.

For more information on reducing runoff

Healthy Landscapes page reducing runoff

RI Stormwater Solutions