Watershed Tips

Whether you live on a lake, stream or wetland or miles away, actions we take can on our properties and in our homes affect the health of our water bodies. Simple, inexpensive yard care and maintenance that when combined can help to keep our water bodies clean.

Keep Runoff Clean

In natural areas, rainwater soaks into the ground and helps our plants and flowers grow. But when rainwater falls on hard surfaces – such as rooftops, driveways, sidewalks and streets – it flows into culverts, ditches or storm sewers. This moving water, called stormwater runoff, either flows or is piped untreated into our lakes, rivers and streams.

Stormwater runoff pollution occurs when grass clippings, leaves, sand, soil, fertilizer, pesticides, motor oil, animal waste and other contaminants are washed into these systems. To prevent this polluted runoff:

  • Pick up and dispose of pet waste, trash, dirt, sand and leaves.
  • After mowing, sweep grass clippings from sidewalks and driveways back onto the lawn.
  • Direct water from your downspouts away from your house and paved surfaces and onto your lawn where it can soak naturally into the ground.
  • Use a rain barrel or cistern to hold water for irrigating your yard between storms.

Restore Your Lawn

  • Lush vegetation captures and filters more rainwater than a bare lawn. Keep your yard covered with vegetation or mulch to prevent runoff pollution and soil erosion.
  • Reseed bare spots on your lawn. If spots are caused by salt, reseed with a salt-tolerant grass mix.
  • Mow high. Keeping your grass height between 2 . 5 and 3 inches is healthier for your lawn.
  • Remove debris and yard trimmings from your yard.
  • Avoid over fertilizing and don’t use phosphorous fertilizer. Because most metro area soils contain ample phosphorous – and because phosphorous causes algae blooms that turn lakes and streams green and smelly – there is a state law restricting use of phosphorous fertilizers for general lawn care. If you think your lawn might need extra phosphorous you can obtain a soil test through the University of Minnesota Soil Testing Lab website (or call 612.625.3101) or make use of another lab.

Keep Lawn Care Products Out of Runoff

  • Always read and follow label directions when using lawn care products.
  • Do not use lawn care products if rain is expected within 24 hours.
  • Do not apply products to the soil if the soil is already saturated with rain or irrigation water.
  • Do not use products closer than 25 feet from a street or curb or storm drain.
  • Sweep up and reuse lawn care products that fall on streets, sidewalks and driveways.

Go Native

  • Add native plants to your landscaping, especially in low areas where water tends to accumulate. Native plants—with their long root systems— help water seep into the ground instead of running off your property.
  • If your property borders a water body, an unmown shoreland or strip of native vegetation helps trap phosphorous, grass clippings and other debris from washing into the water. It also provides habitat for wildlife.

Seek Technical Help from the Watershed District

Through the District Cost Share Program, experts in water quality, erosion, and restoration help plan and implement projects such as shoreline stabilization, gully repairs, habitat restoration, stormwater management, and feedlot improvements to protect the beautiful, clean lakes and streams of the District. Down load the brochure and application form.