Tips for Preventing Stormwater Pollution Around Your Home
Mow High and Use Less: Set the height of your mower to 3 inches as taller grass slows stormwater runoff and requires the use of less fertilizer and pesticides. Have your soil tested to learn which nutrients and pesticides your lawn needs so that you can save money on these chemicals and avoid adding chemicals to the creek that may increase growth of harmful algae. Read product labels to learn the correct amount for application and to determine which ones are harmful to fish, frogs, salamanders and other animals. Consider switching to all natural alternatives. Infrequent long watering encourages grass to develop deep, drought resistant roots.
Compost Yard Waste: Do not bag your lawn clippings or throw them in the creek. They will decompose on your lawn and serve as free fertilizer! Never put leaves in the creek. Both grass clipping and leaves from your lawn add excess nutrients to the creek when they break down.
Downspouts: Direct roof leaders from your home onto grassed or other vegetated surfaces. This will help the water infiltrate into the ground reducing stormwater runoff.
Rainbarrels: Install a rain barrel to capture your roof runoff. This water can be used to water your plants.
Reduce Overall Lawn Area: Consider replacing some of your lawn area with native vegetation including flowers, shrubs and trees. Trees and shrubs greatly reduce stormwater runoff, trapping a large portion of rainwater in their leaf canopy and allowing it to evaporate back into the atmosphere. Additionally, their extensive root system encourages groundwater infiltration of stormwater.
Go Native: Reduce lawn area and plant native plants. These plants are adapted to this region, need less water and fertilizer. Their roots grow many feet deep helping to absorb rain water than grass reducing runoff. Additionally, native plants provide habitat for local birds, butterflies and other wildlife.
Riparian Buffers: A riparian buffer is a vegetated area along the edge of a stream that protects the banks from erosion and aids in the removal of pollutants that would otherwise enter the stream through overland runoff. Riparian buffers are key to a healthy stream ecosystem and are capable of intercepting sediment, nitrogen, phosphorus, and pesticides, all of which negatively effect the health of the Darby Creek. A riparian buffer also increases groundwater infiltration which helps to reduce flooding locally and downstream. Additionally, a riparian buffer provides necessary organic matter from fallen branches and leaves for aquatic life to survive. It is important to remember to never put your yard leaves or grass clippings in the creek as these will provide an excess of nutrients. The above right diagram illustrates the benefits of a riparian buffer. While it might not be possible to achieve all of the elements shown, replacing lawn grass with shrubs and other native vegetation can help increase bank stability and thus decrease erosion and sediment load in the creek. Sediment increases temperature, adds nutrients that can lead to excess algae and fish kills, smothers fish eggs, and clogs fish gills.
Creating a riparian buffer can be as simple as designating a no mow area. This area can then be planted with native wildflowers, shrubs and trees. The buffer should be made as wide as possible and you can leave pathways within the buffer to maintain access to the stream.