Waters Protection Tips


Which is the most dangerous to the health of water bodies: fertilizer; pesticides; grass clippings; motor oil; or leaves?

Many people don't realize that leaves and grass clippings are harming our water resources. The truth is, these organic materials do more damage than fertilizers, pesticides and motor oil.

When raked or blown into the street, leaves make their way into storm sewers and travel directly into our water bodies. As they decay, they release nutrients that harm the delicate ecosystems.

  • Compost your leaves. It's the surest way to keep them out of the streets and storm drains, and thus, out of the wetlands, lakes and streams.
  • Chop your leaves with a power mower. A fine layer of chopped leaves provides nutrients to your lawn.
  • Use leaves around rose bushes and landscape plants. Leaves make an excellent winter mulch.
  • Bag your leaves for pick-up.

Fertilizers and Pesticides

Fertilizer may be necessary for your lawn's health. However, the nutrients in fertilizer can be harmful to the water ecosystem. Applying the right fertilizer, in the right amount, ensures healthier lawns and water bodies.

  • Have your soil tested. Knowing what kind of soil you have helps you determine what kind of fertilizer your lawn needs.
  • Fill fertilizer spreaders on a hard surface. This makes spills easier to clean up. Never wash spills into the street.
  • Close the gate on your spreader when you cross hard surfaces. Sweep up fertilizer that falls on the sidewalk, street or driveway.
  • Follow label directions exactly. Keep pesticides off hard surfaces, and never pour excess pesticides into storm drains.

Did you know that Minnesota soils are naturally high in phosphorous?

In the past, lawn fertilizers commonly contained levels of phosphorous high enough to be dangerous to Bloomington water bodies. New regulations prohibit phosphorus in fertilizers under most circumstances.

Motor Oil

Oil that drips onto driveways and streets washes into storm drains and directly into our water bodies. Five quarts of oil in a lake can create a slick as large as two football fields and cling to mud and plants for more than six months.

Grass Clippings

Clippings left on streets and driveways wash into the storm drains and directly into our water bodies. When grass decays, it releases dangerous amounts of phosphorus.

  • Leave grass clippings on your lawn. They provide valuable nutrients.
  • Use a mulching mower or equip a standard mower with a mulching attachment. This reduces the clipping size and increases the rate at which the clippings decompose.
  • Sweep up and recycle clippings that fall on the driveway, sidewalk or street. Sweeping clippings into the street is just like sweeping them into our water bodies.

Litter and Trash

Litter and trash in our storm drains becomes litter and trash in our water bodies.

  • Sweep up litter and trash from your driveway or sidewalk. Don't sweep it into the street.

Pet Waste

Pet waste left on or near driveways, sidewalks or streets can make its way into storm drains and travel directly into our wetlands, lakes, creek and river. As pet waste decays, it releases nutrients and bacteria that damage the ecosystem.

Rain Barrels and Rainwater Gardens

Rain barrels capture water from each rainfall, allowing users to reduce the amount of treated municipal water needed to irrigate yards and gardens. Rainwater gardens can be planted in waterlogged "low spots," changing a lawn care problem into a natural and beautiful way to control water runoff.