The Franklin Soil and Water Conservation District has launched a pilot program asking small businesses to take voluntary measures to protect local drinking water, rivers and streams.
Roughly two weeks ago, the cities of Canal Winchester, Upper Arlington and Worthington agreed to endorse the Franklin Soil and Water Conservation District's (SWCD) new Water Quality Partner Program.
Those communities' roles largely are promotional, as they primarily are sharing information about the program on their websites and distributing SWCD informational materials.
The real partners will be businesses in those communities that agree to take steps such as ensuring grass clippings from their lawns are collected and disposed of properly, rather than left to filter into stormwater systems that ultimately can affect the quality of drinking water or aquatic species that live in area rivers and streams.
Other precautions can be as simple as using a broom, rather than a hose, to clean sidewalks and parking lots, or keeping Dumpster lids closed so rain doesn't cause pollutants to leech into storm drains.
"It's brand new," said Mary Ann Brouillette, Franklin SWCD communications specialist. "These are kind of our experimental communities to see how it goes."
Businesses that volunteer in the Water Quality Partner Program will receive a window cling to display that shows they've pledged to work to keep streams that flow through their communities healthy.
As of last week, five businesses had agreed to do their parts to reduce stormwater pollution, Brouillette said. However, she would not release their names because she said she had not yet received their permission to do so.
"Small businesses oftentimes don't even realize they're doing something to harm local waterways," she said. "What we do is to work with landowners on a voluntary basis. We're really spreading information with this initiative."
Franklin SWCD has Water Quality Partner Program informational brochures that seek to educate small businesses about stormwater pollution.
The materials also provide a checklist of low- to no-cost steps those businesses can take to reduce chemical and other runoff.
"The idea is just to share with small businesses some ways they can affect water quality," Brouillette said. "They can share their awareness with others by having a window cling.
"It's another way for local businesses to support their communities, which small businesses tend to do."
While Franklin SWCD doesn't offer financial incentives to program partners, Brouillette said participation can have positive impacts on businesses' bottom lines among environmentally conscious customers.
"Consumers are very involved with companies they work with," she said. "I think they like to know the companies they work with are involved in some sort of sustainability program."