By Liliana McGee

Liliana McGee is a junior at Elizabeth Seton High School and has been a member of Girl Scout Troop #6899 for 11 years.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Aidan McGee

Recently our Hyattsville Girl Scout Troop #6899 worked on our Ambassador Water Badge. A large portion of the badge involves learning about and enjoying water close to home. Our troop reached out on the HOPE (Hyattsville Organization for a Positive Environment) email group to recruit local water scientists, and, in an only-in-Hyattsville way, three such scientists agreed to join us for a virtual Friday night meeting. After learning about their work and educational journeys, we took a deep dive into water issues that affect our area and how we might affect change. While major infrastructure and legislative changes are the best ways to help our water, there are still many ways that we as individuals can help improve our water quality. 


We should never take water as a resource for granted, and most of us have heard that we should take shorter showers and turn off the tap when brushing our teeth. But we can all do a little bit more very easily. These are some key points we learned:


  • Pick up your pet’s poop! Domestic animal waste is a big contributor to bacteria in our water. One of the best things we can do to improve the health of our water is clean up after our animals.


  • Litter and trash are easily transported to our waterways during storm events. The trash can end up in the stomachs or tangled on the limbs of sea creatures, so pick up any litter you see.


  • Sweep any soil that is loose on your sidewalks back into your yard so it does not contribute to soil erosion. Do not wash it down the drain.


  • In Hyattsville, stormwater is not treated like the water leaving our homes. Wastewater from your home goes to the sewage treatment plants. However, stormwater goes directly to the tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay, so the soap you wash your car with does not get treated like the soap from your shower does. Consider using a biodegradable soap or a car wash or washing your car on your lawn, not your driveway.


  • When walking or hiking in nature, stay on the path. Compacting the soil changes our ecosystem and inhibits the soil from filtering our water.


  • Lawn fertilizers and pesticides can contribute to harming the environment, so consider a natural alternative, or just let nature take its course. 


  • Say goodbye to flushable wipes. They are not really flushable and are causing major damage and blockages to our sewer systems. If you use them, put them in the trash. Do not flush anything you can put in the trash instead.


Those were mostly don’ts. Here are some do’s:


  • Drink tap water instead of bottled water! Filter it if you like, but tap is best. Tap water is typically more regulated than bottled water and keeps plastics from polluting our waterways. Consider using reusable bottles and lobbying for filtration water fountains at your school or work.


  • Plant native trees and plants to help remove toxins from our rainwater which can improve our waterways naturally. A new dogwood tree or some Black-eyed Susans, Maryland’s state flower, are beautiful and easy to grow.


  • Consider getting a rain barrel. Rain barrels capture water from your roof and hold it for later use on your lawn or garden. Collecting roof runoff reduces the amount of water that flows from your property and is a great way to conserve water.


Water resources are increasingly strained by urban development, pollution, and continued growth in population and demand. We hope you are moved to make some of these simple changes and help protect and improve our water.




Girl Scout Troop #6899 is extremely grateful to Mr. Rick Reeves (chair of DeMatha Catholic High School Science & Health), Mr. Alexi Sanchez de Boado (principal at Clean Streams, LLC), and Dr. Cathleen Hapeman (research chemist with the Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service Hydrology and Remote Sensing Laboratory) for sharing their time and knowledge.


Liliana McGee is a junior at Elizabeth Seton High School and a member of Girl Scout Troop #6899.