How to stop pollution to rivers and lake by improving the water quality without leaving your home.
In our areas, our streets connect to downstream lakes, and streams through the storm sewer system. Water runs off your street and your yard rapidly through storm sewers carrying pollutants collected along the way, directly into our lakes and rivers, without any kind of cleaning or other treatment. So think about it: Because our streets connect directly to the water, we all own waterfront property! Rightfully, storm water typically should goes into a treatment pond, which is generally designed to remove about half the pollution that enters.
Six things you can do to help save our local lakes.
1. Mulch or compost your grass clippings.
Keep your grass clippings off of hard surfaces (sidewalks, driveways, streets) from which they can be washed away, ultimately ending in our waters. Mulching your grass reduced the need for fertilizer because, as the grass clippings break down, nutrients are released into your lawn. And, less fertilizer on your lawn means less fertilizer in the water. If you don’t want to mulch, compost your grass clippings. Also, don’t cut your grass lower than 3 inches. Slightly longer grass will stay greener, reducing the need for watering. And, less watering means less runoff.
2. Mulch or compost your leaves
Because they blow away, leaves can be an ever bigger problem than grass clippings. Mulch or compost the leaves as soon as they fall and as often as possible. This minimizes the chances that they will reach our waters.
3. Use zero-phosphorous fertilizer.
If you must fertilize, do not use a fertilizer that contains phosphorous. Remember, it’s phosphorous that accelerates algae growth in our lakes. Consider this – one pound of phosphorous in runoff can result in 500 pounds of algae growth! Our lawns do not need additional phosphorous to look green and healthy. Make sure to keep any excess fertilizer off of hard surfaces – sweep the fertilizer from sidewalks, driveways and streets so it won’t run off into our waters.
4. Reduce storm water runoff from your property.
Runoff is excess water that washes the grass clippings, leaves, fertilizer and other “pollutants” from lawns, sidewalks and driveways, carrying them into our water system. To reduce runoff, use rain barrels to collect rain water from watering plants. You can also create “rain gardens” – collection areas that are planted with native, moisture-loving vegetation.
5. Use native plants, remove invasive, non-native plants.
Landscaping with native plants improves our local ecosystem. Native plants are adapted to our environment and climate and are tolerant of both draught and tough rain weather. This draught tolerance means no need for excessive watering. Native plants are also adapted to our soils and thus don’t need fertilizers or pesticides.
6. Properly dispose of household hazardous waste.
Do not pour old gasoline onto the street or wash paint brushes at the end of your driveway. Where do these pollutants end up? In our lakes and rivers. Properly dispose of households hazardous wastes. Whether gasoline, paint, pesticides, antifreeze, motor oil or the like, dispose of them at your rubbish bins to be taken out. Their effect on our water can be devastating.
“We are killing the lakes and rivers in our neighborhood. Each of us, with our seemingly harmless everyday yard work, has a small part in it, but together the effects are becoming very significant.”
Our neighborhood lakes and wetlands form an interconnected ecosystem that, because of the cumulative effects of such things as grass clippings, leaves and fertilizer, is in danger. As organic materials (grass, leaves, etc.) reach the water, they decay, releasing phosphorous into the system. Additional phosphorous from fertilizers and pesticides also enter via storm water runoff. This excess phosphorous fuels an explosive growth of algae which forms a green scum on top of the water. This layer blocks sunlight. With no light, there is no photosynthesis and underwater plants can’t grow. Then, as all of this algae dies and decays, it uses up oxygen. With depleted oxygen, fish and other underwater creatures can’t exist.
The chain of events that links your yard work to the death of our local lake.
You are connected to a lake
Your rooftop is connected to your gutter
Your gutter is connected to your downspout
Your downspout is connected to your sidewalk
Your sidewalk is connected to your driveway
Your driveway is connected to your street
Your street is connected to your storm drain
Your storm drain is connected to your grassland
Your grassland is connected to your lake.