Manage your Water Runoff

Stormwater runoff results from rain and snowmelt that flows across the ground surfaces and has a significant impact on our lake water quality.  As rainwater flows across roads, driveways, parking lots, farm fields and lawns it washes soil particles, oil, pesticides, fertilizers, animal waste and other pollutants into our waterways. This results in muddy/cloudy water full of pollutants and excess nutrients, including nitrogen and phosphorous. These nutrients fuel excess algae growth further exacerbating the decreased water clarity and increasing oxygen consumption, impeding aquatic plant growth and fish habitat.

What can we do to improve our water quality?

Redirecting and filtering the water runoff is the most effective means of keeping unwanted pollutants and nutrients out of our lake.  There are multiple ways to achieve that goal:

  • Redirect water spouts from impermeable surfaces to lawns, gardens or rock infiltration areas (shallow pits or trenches filled with rock or gravel designed to collect water). Direct them toward the upland side of houses and garages and away from the lake. This allows water to be absorbed into the ground first before entering the lake.
  • Diversions and swales:  These practices use a berm or shallow trench to intercept water from a path or road and divert it into a dispersion area where it can soak into the ground.
  • Rain and buffer gardens:  These are very effective in capturing  water runoff and filtering it clean, while also providing wildlife habitat. Native plants, trees and shrubs are recommended, as their deep roots penetrate the soil well and act as a sponge to soak up water quickly. Rain gardens are landscaped shallow depressions situated near down spouts and driveways. Buffer gardens are located along shorelines or where water naturally collects on a landscape.
  • Refrain from adding more hard surfaces to your property.  A mere 800 ft2 of pavement, rooftop, or other hard surface generates nearly 500 gallons of water during a one-inch rain.  Anytime you can refrain from adding hard surface to your property, you’re helping our lakes and rivers.
  • Control erosion:  Use straw to control erosion if restarting or tilling a lawn to hold loose soil in place and keep it from going into the storm drain.

In addition to diverting water runoff, good lawn and garden practices are essential improving lake water quality.  Limit or eliminate use of fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides as these can harm or kill young fish and the macroinvertebrates (water critters) that they eat.  Increase plantings and decrease lawn coverage in your yard. Plants and trees are far more effective in absorbing excess water than shallow rooted lawns are.   Pick up your pet waste and dispose of it in the garbage. Pet waste contains bacteria, parasites, nitrogen, and phosphorous, and can spread disease and increase algae growth.

Every small action we take to manage our water runoff can have a big impact on our lake.  Use a holistic approach that incorporates multiple practices for the best affect.  Together we can make a change- positive change.

* From UW Extension publication: “Protect Our Lakes and Streams, Help Stop Polluted Runoff”  UWEX Publications GWQ063 10-2013 DNR PUB-WT-1000 2013