Why care about water quality?

Environmental Notes

Keith Miller
Oakdale Environmental Management Commission

Did you know that the quality of water in your community can impact your property value? It’s true. Studies have indicated a direct correlation between quality of water and property values. After all, would you rather live in a neighborhood with clean, clear waters or one that has ponds full of blue-green algae?

Now, I’d like to think that everyone cares about the quality of our ponds, lakes and wetlands just because it’s the right thing to do. But I am a realist, and I know that this isn’t the case. But perhaps knowing that good water quality has an impact on one’s pocketbook – through increased property values – might spring some people into action!

So when you’re ready for action, hopefully your question will be, “How can I help?” I’m glad you asked!

Each of us is responsible for the quality of our water, and there are many steps we can take to contribute. Here are seven easy things you can do to help save our lakes and wetlands. Some of these may be familiar, some perhaps not:

1 – Mulch or compost your grass clippings. Keep your clippings off of hard surfaces where they would be washed away and ultimately end up in our water.

2 – Mulch or compost your leaves, minimizing the chance they will blow away and reach our waters. Also, clean leaves from your gutters so they can’t be washed away with the rain. Don’t rake leaves into the street for the street sweeper to pickup.

3 – If you must fertilize, do not use one that contains phosphorous. It’s phosphorous that accelerates algae growth in our lakes and wetlands. And again, like grass clippings and leaves keep fertilizer off of hard surfaces as it will be washed away and end up in our water to accelerate algae growth as well.

4 – Reduce storm water runoff from your property by directing downspouts onto your lawn, not onto hard surfaces. Also, use rain barrels to collect rain water for watering plants.

5 – Use native plants and remove invasive, non-native plants. Native plants are adapted to our environment and climate and are tolerant of both drought and tough winters. Drought tolerance means no need for excessive watering (translating into less runoff).

6 – Properly dispose of household hazardous waste! Have you ever seen people pour old gasoline onto the street or wash paint brushes at the end of their driveways? These pollutants end up in our lakes and wetlands! Instead, they belong at the Washington County Environmental Center, 4039 Cottage Grove Drive in Woodbury. The facility is open from noon to 7 p.m. on Tuesdays and from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Thursdays and Saturdays. Call 651-430-6655 if you have any questions about what they accept.

7 – Don’t use coal tar-based sealants on your driveway. In addition to our ordinance in Oakdale banning the use of coal tar-based sealants, a new Minnesota state law will ban their use effective at the end of this year. They contain chemicals that harm fish, and with prolonged exposure, pose a risk of cancer in humans. Plus, they make routine maintenance of storm water ponds more expensive.

There are other ways you can help keep our wetlands healthy. One is to get involved in the City of Oakdale’s Adopt-A-Wetland program. This is a great program for individuals, families, a group of friends, neighbors, an organization, or a network of people from your work. Those involved are asked to keep “adopted” property clean and free from trash and debris, to help educate neighbors about wetlands, and monitor and remove invasive species. The program is well-organized, and the city gives step-by-step instructions to volunteers while providing great, on-going support. If you live near a wetland (and remember, although ponds and lakes are obviously wetlands, storm water pond areas, dry wetlands and drainage areas are also considered wetlands), and are interested in adopting a wetland, please check it out at the city’s website http://www.ci.oakdale.mn.us/. Hover over “Generation Green” and then click on “Water Quality.”

And have you ever thought about planting a rain garden? Rain gardens (collection areas that are planted with native, moisture-loving vegetation) can be a valuable means of reducing storm water runoff. And did you know financial assistance (up to $2,500 for residential projects) is available for rain garden design work, installation and plants? The grants are offered through the Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District. Check it out at www.rwmwd.org. Hover over “BMP Incentive Program,” and then click on “Homeowner Residential Properties.”

While our governments do establish zoning and ordinance codes to protect water quality, ultimately, each of us has personal responsibility for the quality of our water. This is true even if you do not live right next to a wetland or pond, because each of us, if you think about it, is connected: my rooftop is connected to my gutter, my gutter is connected to my downspout, my downspout is connected to my sidewalk, my sidewalk is connected to my driveway, my driveway is connected to my street, my street is connected to the neighborhood storm drain, the storm drain is connected to a nearby wetland, and the wetland is connected to the community lake.

What goes into our water really does matter! And the more we protect it, the better will be our community and the higher will be our property values!

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