One way is to plant trees and shrubs at the edges of fields. The plants hold the soil in place, absorb some of the run off, and slow the water down before it reaches the rivers and streams. The soil can also absorb more of the run off if it is moving more slowly. Another way to do this is to conserve the riparian ecosystem that already exists around the rivers and streams and help these ecosystems thrive and expand to their normal area.
There are many things that people and industries can do in order to prevent runoff. These include keeping street gutter and storm drains clean, limited the use of lawn chemicals, and developing soil erosion ordinances within the city government.
Here ia a great website with success stories of communities and cities who have successfully decreased runoff and achieved improved water quality: http://www.epa.gov/owow/nps/Success319/
The fight to prevent harmful runoff is largely a community issue. Landowners inevitably control the amount of run off that leaves their fields, homes, etc. and only through community action and pressure can people encourage the worst offenders. Methods for controlling runoff usually include building a thick plant barrier around the borders of fields to absorb runoff. It involves putting less permeable soil near the borders of land to block runoff. It also involves encouraging farmers to use less pesticides and herbicides on their fields.
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