Reduce stormwater runoff. Plant rain gardens.

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What is the water like where you swim—not the temperature, but the quality? An annual report released by NRDC, Testing the Waters, concludes that beach water quality is not improving across the country. Not only does every coastal state suffer from polluted and contaminated beaches, but those problems resulted in more than 20,000 closing and swimming advisory days in 2008 alone.

Stormwater runoff, a major cause of beach pollution, is something we can help prevent through simple changes around our homes. Cities such as Burnsville, Minnesota, are encouraging residents to install rain gardens, often consisting of hardy native species planted in depressions that collect rainwater as it runs off driveways, roofs or other areas. By modifying the curbside, rain gardens can help divert rainwater from streets. For help planting your own, see this guide from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

For other ways to reduce stormwater runoff, click here and here. Also, check out the NRDC slide show with examples of communities across America cleaning up their water—and saving money—with low-impact development. For more, see what these Smarter Cities are doing to protect water quality: Burnsville, Minnesota; Norwalk, ConnecticutKansas City, Missouri; Ann Arbor, Michigan; Santa Monica, California; and Denver, Colorado.