our Better Nature Home
Dog defecating.  Wikimedia Commons photo  

Animal waste can be loaded with excess nutrients and nasty organisms. More....

printer friendly page
This article was written by Jean Pillo
of the Eastern CT Conservation District (ECCD), and edited by Bet Zimmerman

Bears do it in the woods.  Cows and horses do it in the field.  Outdoors, cats and dogs do it anywhere.  It doesn’t matter who is doing it.  It does matter how it is managed after the job is done.  What is being referred to is animal waste.  What is needed are responsible people who follow Best Management Practices for animal waste management.

Horse Manure. Wikimedia commons photo
A single horse can generate 8 to 10 tons of manure a year. Wikimedia Commons photo

No one is suggesting you go on Bear Poop Patrol.  It is unlikely that large numbers of bears will congregate in a small area where their waste could concentrate and significantly impact water quality.  (Actually, bears do not even go to the bathroom for months on end while they hibernate.)

Waste from large animals such as horses and cows is another story.   It can pose a risk to water quality, especially in rural areas.   Even though people may only house a couple of horses or cows in their backyard, each large animal is capable of producing two cubic feet of manure every day.  That piles up to a prodigious 8 to 10 tons per year!

Also, the manure a single horse produces in one day can harbor 297 million fecal coliform bacteria.  That is why it is very important for their manure to be properly managed.  One option is composting.   However, the compost pile should be located a minimum of 100 feet from a wetland or stream, and away from residential backyards.

To properly compost large animal waste, the manure pile should be covered to keep rain water from leaching out the nutrients and bacteria which can then be carried with runoff to the nearest stream.  Also, fencing to keep horses and cows away from streams is recommended.  The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Horse Environmental Awareness Program (HEAP) website at http://tinyurl.com/yehaex5 is a great source of information on manure management for horse owners.  The ECCD has a copy of a DVD called Better Horsekeeping II.  Contact ECCD at 860-774-8397 x203 if you would like to borrow the DVD.

Household pets can also impact water quality, depending on the circumstances.  Pet waste contains E. Coli bacteria and nutrients that feed algae blooms.  Also, it potentially can carry worms and other nasty creatures you would not want to ingest.  In urban areas, where numerous people walk their dogs on hardscaped areas such as sidewalks, pet waste left behind will likely wash into the nearest storm drain the next time it rains. 

Most storm drains are not filters.  They are merely a pipe that carries water from one place to another.  Usually the water drains untreated directly into a stream or wetland.  That is not a pretty thing to think about the next time your child is catching frogs or wading in the water.  It is even less glamorous when you realize your drinking water may come from that same stream.  (The thought of a neighbor’s outdoor cat defecating in your child’s sandbox is also not very appealing or healthy.)

The best way to manage pet waste is to collect it in a plastic bag and dispose of it in the trash. Your town may have a municipal ordinance, or parks may have requirements for managing pet waste.  If so, obey the rules.  If not, consider contacting them and asking them to look into adopting one.  ECCD has examples of existing municipal pet waste ordinances and policies.   If everyone takes responsibility for what comes out of their animals, we keep their waste out of our water.

Jean Pillo is the Watershed Conservation Coordinator for the ECCD, and also chairs the Woodstock Conservation Commission. See ECCD’s website is at www.conservect.org/eastern


References and More Information:


Originally published in the Villager newspapers on March 12, 2010


Fun kids games and activities
Fun Kids Games!

grief, illness, caregiver
Love, Loss & Gratitude

  Our Better Nature

HOME | Site Map | Contact | Contact webmaster about text link ad placement

If you experience problems with the website/find broken links/have suggestions/corrections, please contact me!
The purpose of this site is to share information with anyone interested in environmental protection.
Feel free to link to it, or to print hard copies for personal or educational purposes (see permissions) with a citation for the author. I have no responsibility or input on articles written by other authors.
No permission is granted for any commercial use or reproduction online.
Appearance of ads on this site does not constitute endorsement of any of those services or products!
If you are interested in placing text links or other ads on this site, contact the webmaster.
©2007 Chimalis. Original photographs are copyrighted, and may not be used without the permission of the photographer.
See disclaimer, necessitated by today's sadly litigious world.
Last updated October 25, 2016

HOME | Conservation | Open Space and the Outdoors | Pollution Prevention | Wildlife | Contact | Search