Help Keep Local Waterways Healthy

There’s no question that everybody wants healthy streams, creeks and green spaces in their community for their family to enjoy safely. 

Storm-water management — keeping excess runoff from rain and snow and the contaminants that they carry from polluting local water sources — is essential to maintain the health and well-being of native fish and wildlife, as well as the quality of water that your family uses every day.

Home builders install silt fences and dig retention ponds to control storm-water runoff during construction.  But once a community is completed, the way it is maintained makes a big difference to the health of nearby waterways.

Consider the following ways that you can help keep your community clean and healthy for the enjoyment of many generations to come.

Lawn aeration

Often overlooked is the need to aerate your lawn.  Over time the soil becomes compacted.  Aeration allows water to penetrate the ground, rather than run off.  This helps reduce compaction while allowing your lawn’s roots to grow deeper.  A deeper root system gives your lawn the ability to better withstand  the dry summer months. Aeration is best done before the ground dries up and hardens.  The best times are spring and fall.  Fertilizing your lawn after aeration is a good practice as it allows the fertilizer to be more effective and less fertilizer will be washed away during a rain.

Fertilizing

When it rains, lawns that are over-fertilized can wash pesticides and herbicides into the storm drains on your street, eventually carrying it to the local water source — possibly the source of your drinking water.

According to the Center for Watershed Protection, more than 50 percent of lawn owners fertilize their lawns, but only 10 to 20 percent of those home owners actually perform a soil test to determine the fertilization needs of the lawn.  Before you buy your first bag, take time to do the soil test — you may find that you don’t even need to fertilize.

If you do need to fertilize your lawn:

  • Aerate your lawn first
  • Keep it on the grass, use it sparingly, and consider using organic products
  • Hold off if there is a chance of a rain storm shortly after applying it to your lawn
  • When you mow, don’t bag the grass. The clippings will naturally fertilize your lawn. But sweep those fertilizer-rich clippings off the sidewalk and roadway so they don’t go down the storm drain.

Trees

Planting a tree is a great way to help keep polluted storm-water from reaching storm drains.  The roots help rain water filter back into the soil, cutting down on excess runoff.  

As an added benefit, trees can help cut summer cooling costs by providing shade to the home, and in many cases they help to increase the value of your home.

Gardens

Plants that are native to your region require less water and nutrients to survive and are more resistant to pests and disease — therefore less fertilization is required.  Information about native Michigan plants can be found at the following web sites:

MICH DNR – Native Plants

Absolute Michigan

Rain Barrels

Rain barrels collect storm-water runoff from a home’s roof via the rain gutters. They hold the water temporarily, cutting down on the amount of water that reaches the sewer system. The water can then be used to water lawns and gardens.  

Purchase your rain barrel at a local home and garden store or build it yourself — step-by-step instructions are available on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) website, EPA – Rain Barrels

These are just a few suggestions to help get you started on the road to a cleaner and healthier community.  Get involved in your local watershed organization to find out how you can make a difference.  Visit www.epa.gov and search for “surf your watershed.”

For more information on storm-water management and other environmental initiatives visit the National Association of Home Builders at www.nahb.org

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