Did you know that you and your neighbors have waterfront property? Your yard and the nearest lake, stream, or wetland are connected by the nearest storm drain or ditch. That means the actions you take on your property affect the local water bodies.

In urban areas, rain falls on hard surfaces such as streets, driveways and rooftops and flows into the storm sewer system, which carries it to the nearest body of water.  This rainfall, called stormwater runoff, brings along any pollutants it has picked up along the way.  You can help reduce the amount of pollutants entering local lakes, rivers and streams (and save money at the same time) by following a few simple steps:

  • Water wisely – if your lawn needs water, do it in the morning when it’s cooler to avoid evaporation, and make sure to aim sprinklers so they don’t water hard surfaces. Lawns typically only need one inch of water per week, so if it rains, you can skip the watering.
  • Mow three inches or higher – Mowing grass to a height of three inches or higher will encourage thicker and healthier grass and make your lawn more resistant to weeds, drought, and erosion.
measuring grass length with a ruler
  • Sharpen your mower blades – Sharper blades will cut grass to three inches or higher more effectively. Dull blades damage grass, which can give the grass a yellow or white tint.
  • Leave grass clippings on lawn – Leaving your grass clippings on your lawn puts the same amount of nutrients back into your grass as one application of fertilizer. If you don’t want grass clippings on your lawn, compost them. Be sure to sweep up any clippings that blow into the street so they don’t run down the storm drain.
  • Fertilize smartly (if you need it) – If you choose to fertilize, only do it in the fall when it’s most effective. Apply only the amount directed and be sure to choose a zero-phosphorus fertilizer. Many lawns already have plenty of phosphorus in the soil and any excess will just run off into local waters and produce algae (do a soil test first if you aren’t sure about your lawn). Another alternative to fertilizing is aerating your lawn.
  • Pick up pet waste regularly – In addition to preventing lawn burns, regular pick-up of pet waste will keep bacteria from running off into storm drains and our local waters.

Following these tips will help keep your lawn healthy while keeping our waters clean and safe this summer.