What is Stormwater?
Stormwater is water from rain or melting snow that does not soak into the ground. It flows from rooftops, over paved areas and bare soil, and through sloped lawns. As it flows, this stormwater runoff collects and transports pollutants.
Across the county, preventing stormwater pollution presents unique challenges since pollutants come from many sources. Summer is when people often unknowingly damage the very lakes they love by polluting them with phosphorous. Some sources of pollutants:
- Pet waste
- Automobile Fluids
- Deicing Products
- Grass Clippings
- Leaves, Other Yard Waste
- Cigarette Butts and Other Litter
Effects of Polluted Stormwater
Polluted stormwater degrades streams, rivers, ponds, wetland, bays and lakes. In Orono, runoff makes its way into Lake Minnetonka and/or Minnehaha Creek and eventually the Mississippi River.
Some results of stormwater pollution:
- Cloudy water deteriorates habitat for fish and plants.
- Nutrients promote algae growth, which crowds out other aquatic life.
- Toxic chemicals threaten the health of fish and other aquatic life.
- Bacteria and parasites from waste make lakes or bodies of water unsafe for wading and swimming after storms.
What Can I Do?
Clean Up After Yourself!
This is probably the easiest thing you can start doing. Don't litter, even cigarette butts can pollute.
Wash your car on your lawn using a no-phosphorous soap. This keeps soapy water out of the storm drain, and can double as a drink for your lawn! If that's not an option, take it to a commercial car wash where water is treated before it re-enters local waterways.
When working with chemicals be sure to clean up spills and dispose of used oil, paint or other chemicals at your local household hazardous waste collection sites. Try using natural options for any pesticide or herbicide needs. Since January 1, 2004 fertilizers containing phosphorus cannot be used on lawns in the Twin Cities metro area, which includes Hennepin County.
Create a Rainwater Garden
A rainwater garden is a depression in the soil filled with water-loving plants. The depression is designed to collect water. Check with the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District for ideas and models.
Try planting native plants; these often require less water, fertilizer and pesticides. Plant flowers that attract butterflies or hummingbirds, or plants that will provide habitat for birds or wildlife.
Lawn Clippings & Leaves
You can always leave your clippings on your yard, but leaves and lawn clippings left on the sidewalk or driveway are easily swept away by water and provide excess nutrients to the nearest lake, stream or river. Try using them for compost; check out our web page on composting.
Always carry a bag and use it. At home you can flush the waste, or double bag it and put it in the trash.
Make sure downspouts from your roof are not only directed away from your foundation, but onto your lawn and not your driveway or sidewalk. You can collect the water from your downspouts in rain barrels to be reused around your yard.
Have your soil tested; you may need less fertilizer than you think! Less fertilizer means less run-off.
Sand & Salt
After the snow piles have melted, sweep up extra sand and salt. Excess sand can fill in lakes and streams, cover up habitat for aquatic life and carry pollution. Salt is a major contributor of chlorides to our waterways.
і Green Guide Website, "The Green Guide," Watersheds.