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Bloomington Briefing

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Water in the urban ecosystem

Authored on
Bloomington Briefing Published June 28, 2022
Updated on November 2, 2022
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One factor adversely affecting Bloomington’s waterbodies is the way urban development has changed the movement of water. Urbanization has increased impervious surfaces or “hardscapes” such as streets, parking lots, sidewalks and roofs. Hardscapes prevent rainfall from being absorbed into the ground and can lead to increased water volumes and transport of nutrients—nitrogen and phosphorus—into storm drains and on to lakes, rivers and streams.

Help by being water conscious. Let water get a chance to soak into the ground. This not only helps reduce the volume of water charging into water bodies, but it also reduces the amount of nutrients that the stormwater can transport. Direct your downspouts away from pavement. Aim them into the lawn or a rain garden. Doing this on your property alone might not seem like much, but if everyone did it, the effect would provide a substantial benefit to urban hydrology. Here are some other tips to reduce nutrients from reaching lakes, ponds, wetlands, and streams.

  • Avoid fertilizer. The use of fertilizer creates abnormally high levels of nutrients across the landscape. Some of these nutrients will get washed into the water. Use sparingly and follow directions. Don’t fertilize before a rainstorm.
  • Pick up pet waste. Animal waste contains nitrogen and bacteria that pollute our local waters when it rains. You can help by picking up after your pet on walks and in your backyard.
  • Don’t blow lawn clippings and leaves into the street. Lawn clippings and leaves are like small packets of nutrients. Once on the pavement, they are easily washed into storm drains. Either compost the leaves and grass on your property, in a pile or by mulching them into a lawn.  Alternatively, you can join the yard waste pick-up program, and bag the leaves, grass, and other material for off-site composting.
  • Plant trees and other native plants. Plants help reduce runoff by soaking up stormwater along with the nitrogen that often comes along with it.

For more ideas on how to help, visit