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Small Steps, Big Impact: New Resource Available for Waterfront Property Owners to Help Protect the Inland Bays

Written on: March 14th, 2022 in Outreach

By Caitlin Chaney, Delaware Center for the Inland Bays

In the last 30 years, the population across the Delaware Inland Bays watershed has surged. The Inland Bays is a special place to live, but growing development brings challenges to the watershed and those who live within it. Climate change, sea level rise, and nutrient pollution all pose threats to the Inland Bays.

The good news is that everyone, including property owners, have the opportunity to help care for our shared paradise in a way that benefits the ecosystem and community. The Delaware Center for the Inland Bays (Center) recently published Protecting the Inland Bays: A Waterfront Property Owner’s Guide, an educational resource that addresses some of the most persistent threats facing the Inland Bays and their watershed. It offers guidance on how to protect and enhance properties while promoting healthy shorelines and nearshore areas, water quality, and habitats for both people and wildlife. Below is a summary of some of the guidance provided within the publication.

Map of the Inland Bays Watershed.

First Steps:
A critical first step is informing yourself of the rules and regulations regarding your property. The Center recommends checking your deed restrictions, reviewing the appropriate HOA governing documents (if applicable), and researching town and county ordinances and state regulations and guidance.

Minimize Runoff and Groundwater Contamination
Small adjustments on your property can make a big difference in reducing polluted stormwater runoff and groundwater. Here are some best practices:

  • Redirect downspouts and gutters from impervious surfaces like paved driveways to a permeable area such as a garden to allow water to soak into the ground.
  • Limit or eliminate the usage of fertilizers and pesticides and avoid the disposal of grass clippings and leaves into storm drains or canals to protect local water quality.
  • Reduce impervious surfaces by using alternative hardscapes like permeable pavers as a creative way to enhance your property.

Create Your Very Own Nature Preserve
You can help restore the delicate balance of the local ecosystem while creating a beautiful oasis right in your backyard.

  • Prioritize native plants to reduce water pollution, support native wildlife, as well as save time and money all while beautifying your yard. Some popular native species include goldenrod, eastern red cedar, beach plum, and dune grass.
  • Be sure to remove invasive plants on your property including common species like the Bradford Pear, Japanese honeysuckle, and exotic bamboos. Mechanical methods include pulling and digging—making sure to remove the entire root system—or regularly cutting and mowing. While chemical removal should be used as a last resort, it is necessary to control certain species including Phragmites (Phragmites australis).
Bees on a flower.

Managing Septic Systems & Wastewater
Proper maintenance and management of your septic system and wastewater is essential to preventing contaminants and excess nutrients from entering groundwater.

  • Check if you are eligible to connect to a central sewer system.
  • Ensure you are performing proper maintenance for your specific septic system, including having it regularly pumped by a service professional.

These tips are just a few ways that property owners can simultaneously help protect the Inland Bays and their watershed and their investment. To access more in-depth guidance and information, including the benefits of living shorelines and enhancing buffers, please click here to download the Center’s waterfront property owner guidebook along with supporting resources.

Printed copies are also available upon request by emailing

Aerial photo of the Inland Bays Watershed.

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