Lake Singletary Watershed Association
Dedicated to the Preservation and Protection of Lake Singletary and its Watershed
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       How Does Lawncare Affect
        You and Your Environment
       Nonpoint Source Pollution
  Source:
  Massachusetts Department of
  Environmental Protection
Introduction
Have you ever wondered if the fertilizers, pesticides, and extra water you use for your yard are harmful to your family or your environment? Would you like an attractive yard without spending so much time and money?
It is possible to have a healthy, safe, and attractive yard, and to protect water quality and supply at the same time. Follow this guide for natural landscape care and you can help keep your property, family, and watershed healthy.

How Does Lawncare Affect You and Your Environment?
 
Your property is part of a watershed, an area of land from which all the surface water and groundwater flows from higher elevations downhill to a common body of water. No matter how far you live from a body of water, your property is part of a watershed. Therefore, how you care for your yard can affect both water quality and water supply.
 
It's hard to imagine that a green, flourishing lawn could pose a threat to the environment. However, the fertilizers and pesticides you apply to your lawn are potential pollutants. If you improperly or excessively apply these chemicals, they can wash off your property and end up in ponds, bays, reservoirs, and other waters. Excess nitrogen and phosphorous, two key ingredients in fertilizer, may cause these waters to become overgrown with unsightly and foul-smelling algae and weeds. This overgrowth may result in fish kills, the pollution of shellfish beds and swimming beaches, and the lowering of waterfront property value. In addition, pesticides and nitrogen, which can dissolve in water, have the potential to contaminate groundwater - a source of drinking water.

Nonpoint Source Pollution
 
You may have heard of these water quality problems - they are the result of nonpoint source pollution. Nonpoint source pollution comes from our use of the land and is the leading cause of water quality problems in Massachusetts. This pollution occurs when rainwater, snowmelt, or irrigation runs over or filters into the land, picking up pollutants and depositing them into rivers, lakes, coastal waters, or groundwater. Pesticides and fertilizers that you apply to your lawn and soil washing off your lawn are all potential nonpoint source pollutants. These pollutants don't observe property lines; they go wherever the water takes them.
Fertilizers and pesticides are not the only problems with typical lawncare. Watering your lawn helps move pollutants downslope to water bodies and unnecessarily drains your drinking water supply and rivers and ponds during the drier summer months. These water impacts affect you and your environment. The summer is a critical period for fish; stream flow and lake levels are at their lowest and water temperatures are at their highest. Drought impacts are often intensified by the watering of lawns. During the 1995 drought, parts of the Ipswich River, which serves as a public water source among other uses, went completely dry, killing many fish. In recent years, many communities, such as Holliston and Braintree, have imposed outdoor water bans due to water shortages. Watering lawns unnecessarily contributes to this annual water supply problem.