Pet waste is seemingly a small source of pollution but over time it can add up to big problems for water quality in stormwater ponds, canals, lakes and streams. Pet waste will not just decompose and go away. Instead, it adds harmful bacteria and nutrients to local waters when it is not disposed of properly.
Unlike wild animals that consume resources from their ecosystem, pets are fed commercially produced foods designed to give them a complete and healthy diet. Because pet food is extremely nutrient rich, pet waste contains high levels of phosphorus and nitrogen. When it rains, pet waste dissolves and can flow into stormwater management systems contributing to water pollution that can degrade water quality.
The waste causes excess nutrients which contribute to algae and nuisance aquatic weed growth, causing low oxygen in the water that can affect the aquatic environment. Nutrient pollution can also cause the waters to become cloudy making it unattractive for property owners. In urban areas, pet waste and fertilizers are among the top sources of nutrients in stormwater ponds.
If not disposed of properly, pet waste not only affects water quality, but public health. The pathogens like bacteria, parasites and viruses found in pet waste can make people ill. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates the average dog excretes between 0.5 and 0.75 pounds of waste per day. One gram of dog waste contains about 23 million coliform bacteria, nearly twice the amount found in the equivalent amount of human waste. It is hard to believe that our furry friends can cause so much trouble.
Remember, there is no Poop Fairy, it is up to you, the pet owner, to help keep pollutants out of local waterways.