Save Your Stream From Your Lawn

Originally published, 2014 Maryland Solar Tour guide by Shannon Moore.

photo by Andrea K. via flickr (CC)

photo by Andrea K. via flickr (CC)

Your yard is a heaven where dogs frolic, flowers bloom, and a lush green carpet of grass creates a sense of order and calm. It’s also a source of pollution from pet waste and fertilizer. The hot water coming off your roof, walkways and driveways combines with your neighbors’ yards to create intense storm flows that erode your yard, damage stream banks and cause heat pollution that can kill fish. But there is a way to have it all, and that is to control the runoff coming from your property, and for your neighbors to do the same.

If you’re lucky, your property was built with runoff reduction in mind. Maybe your roof drains, instead of being connected the storm drains that go directly into streams, drain to a nice grassy patch in your yard

photo by barbndc via flickr (CC)

photo by barbndc via flickr (CC)

or into a rain barrel that you use to water your plants. Maybe you have conservation landscaping or a rain garden that came with your house. And maybe you know exactly how much fertilizer to use so that you save money and pollution by not overfertilizing, or you don’t fertilize at all. If so, good job, and turn the page. If not, hey, you are not alone! Most lawns are like this.

The bad news: polluted stormwater runoff from developed areas is damaging our waterways to the point that they cannot fully support their designated uses. In Frederick County where I work, we have impairments to streams and reservoirs from phosphorus, sediment, and bacteria that are damaging to fisheries. This is especially the case in waterways that support brook trout, where populations will likely become extirpated in 50 years if we don’t do something.

If you live in certain areas of Frederick County, you can take advantage of a new program called Neighborhood Green that provides no-cost landscape plans, fertilizer plans, and cost share for the installation of stormwater streampractices; see http://www.frederickcountymd.gov/NGreen for more information. You can also learn more about how to restore your yard by participating in the Green Homes Challenge at www.frederickgreenchallenge.org, which has a ton of actions you can do and resources that show you how to do them. There are also resource guides on the internet like the Homeowner Guide for a More Bay-Friendly Property available at http://chesapeakestormwater.net/download/3770/.