Spring tips for official clean water

Spring is a challenging time for our lakes, rivers and wetlands.  Snowmelt and rain wash many pollutants into these water bodies.  Because the ground is still frozen, water cannot be absorbed or infiltrate the ground. Instead rain and melting snow act like a water hose, washing the landscape free of sand, salt and debris.

Although a good washing helps spruce up our communities after a long winter, it does little for the health of our lakes, rivers and wetlands. Controlling stormwater pollution requires everyone’s action, from the homeowner to the business owner, from the road builder to the street sweeper.

We all have the opportunity to keep the landscape cleaner so rain and snowmelt have fewer pollutants to wash away into our water.  Take the “clean water challenge” to help our lakes and rivers stay clean this spring.

• Use the minimum salt and sand needed for safety measures, and in spring sweep it off of sidewalks and driveways into a reuse bucket for reapplication next winter.

• Unclog rain gutters and downspouts and redirect them to drain onto grassy areas and away from paved surfaces.

• Survey your yard for sparse areas. Replant these areas to prevent dirt from running off into the stormwater system.

• Consider adding native plants to your yard landscape, especially in low areas towards which water tends to flow. Native plants with their long root systems help water to infiltrate the ground instead of running off your property.

• If using lawn care products, make sure the ground has thawed before application. For healthy lawns with a strong root system, the most efficient time to fertilize is during October. Fertilizer containing phosphorous cannot be used in the metro area without a special permit. Check local stores for a range of effective zero-percent phosphorous options.

• Keep grass clippings, pollen and other plant debris off sidewalks, driveways and roads. When these plant materials wash into our waterways, they decompose and contribute to the algae growth that make our lakes “green” in the summer.

For more information about polluted runoff or general watershed information, visit www.rwmwd.org, or http://cfpub.epa.gov/npdes/stormwater/menuofbmps/illicit.cfm or www.cleanwatermn.org, or call the Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District at 704-2089.


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