With our increasingly busy lives, protecting local waters isn't usually an issue that crosses most people’s minds. But if you value your health and the health of your surroundings then it should. Our well-being is linked to the health of our waters. Our drinking water comes directly from Lake Erie, so protecting the tributaries to the lake ultimately protects our source of water for recreation, while maintaining habitat for native plants and animals.
Most people would be surprised to learn that protecting the huge body of water that is Lake Erie can start with you right in your yard! This is because we all live in the Lake Erie watershed. A watershed is the area of land where all of the water flows into the same place. You can basically picture a watershed as a funnel. So any water that runs off your lawn or down the storm drain will eventually end up in Lake Erie. This is why it is imperative to take care of what goes down the storm drain, because it remains untreated, flowing into your local river and then into Lake Erie.
There are simple things you can do at home to protect our waters while improving your health. We can all be watershed stewards!
Watershed Stewardship Tips
1) Mow High (3 to 4”): Mowing high reverts your landscape to more of a natural system. When grass is higher it outcompetes “weeds” that would otherwise be a problem in your yard. Higher grass means less water, less weeds and that you don’t have to use pesticides, which will eventually run off into our streams.
2) Reduce the amount of grass: 60% of the average American lawn is grass. Planting native plants can help capture runoff while also providing habitat and vegetation for native pollinators.
3) Reduce chemicals: Fertilizers and pesticides are usually not needed. Most of us are over-fertilizing, over-watering, and over-spraying our yards. Your lawn will turn brown when it’s hot and dry because it goes dormant until favorable conditions.
4) Leave grass clippings: or mulched leaves to decompose on the lawn over time- their nutrients stay put even if you happen to get significant rain.
5) Collect excess stormwater: If you have areas in your lawn that are wet, consider installing a rain garden. Rain gardens will capture that excess storm water and filter it before it goes into the storm drain. Native plants are recommended because of their deep root systems. Visit our rain garden page for tips on installing and native plants.
6) Install a rain barrel: Rain barrels are another way to catch excess storm water but from your roof. Your roof is a very large impervious surface. Installing even a few rain barrels can help reduce the runoff and also provide fresh water to be used in your garden. Check out our rain barrel page to find a workshop in your area.
7) Re-direct your downspouts: Maybe a rain barrel isn’t your thing or you don’t have room to put one on every downspout. Just re-routing the end of the downspout and extending it into your yard can help naturally filter the water that comes off your roof. But be sure to check that your community allows downspout disconnection.
8) Don't wash your car in your driveway: Washing your car should never be done in your driveway. The problem is that the soap and chemicals run right off your drive into our storm drains and remain untreated. Washing your car on your lawn or at a carwash is key for the health of our rivers.
9) Pick up dog poop: Always pick up doggy-doo! Dispose of any pet waste properly by throwing it away in a garbage can, so that next rain event the dog poop doesn't run directly into our storm drains.
10) Never put anything but rain down the storm drain: Water entering our storm drains does not get treated like our waste waters, so nothing should enter the storm drain. With a little research online you can find somewhere that will take your used fluids or contact the Cuyahoga Solid Waste District or go the their website to find out how to dispose of hazardous waste.