Water quality is primarily dependent on what happens on the land around the lake and within its watershed, the area of land that drains into a particular water body. What you and your neighbors do – or don’t do- on your shore land property can have a significant impact on the quality of the lake. Managing water quality means appropriately managing the land use around the lake to reduce the amount of pollution that enters the lake.

Along with the rights and privileges of owning shoreline, also comes the responsibility to protect, improve, and enhance the quality of the water for your enjoyment and that of future generations. The water itself is a public resource for everyone to enjoy. Stewardship is an individual’s responsibility to manage one’s life and property with regard for the rights of others. Here are some simple ways you can become a “Lake Steward”.

Apply fertilizer sparingly. Use zero-phosphorus lawn fertilizer-It’s the Law in Minnesota.  Since 2005, Minnesota homeowners should not be using fertilizers containing phosphorus, except for exemptions for new lawns or if a soil test indicates a need for phosphorus. When shopping for fertilizer, buy a formula that has a middle number of zero i.e. 22-0-15.

Do Not Dump Yard Waste. Grass clippings, leaves, and aquatic plant material that wash up on shore all contain phosphorus, which is released when plant material decomposes. Try composting instead! Composting improves soil structure, reduces erosion, and provides drought protection.

Locate Fire Pits Away from the Shore and Dispose of Ash. The leftover ash from burning wood is very high in phosphorus. In Douglas County, open burning is prohibited within 100 feet of the shoreline. You may have a fire pit or campfire that is 3 feet in diameter or less and that is contained by a fire ring to prevent ash from washing into the lake.

Plant a Rain Garden. A rain garden is a shallow basin, designed to collect runoff from driveways, roofs, and other hard surfaces or sheet flow from lawns. The collected water is then infiltrated into the ground instead of running off to the lake. Rain gardens are planted with hardy, water-loving native perennial plants that have deep roots that work to filter pollutants from rainwater.

Install a Rain Barrel. A rain barrel is any type of container used to catch water flowing from a downspout and store it for later use. You can capture as much as 60 gallons during a 1” rain fall event off of just 100 square feet of roof! It’s great for watering plants around your house.

For more ideas on how you can become a Lake Steward, contact the Douglas Soil and Water Conservation District, 320.763.3191 Extension 3.

Phosphorus – What’s the Big Deal? Phosphorus is a naturally occurring nutrient found in all water. However, excessive amounts of phosphorous in lakes can lead to algae blooms and can ultimately result in low levels of dissolved oxygen which can make it difficult for fish to survive.