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The Greening of Our Waterbodies

Turning Green?

I Thought Going "Green" Was Good?

Making choices in your daily life to become more sustainable, environmentally-friendly, or "green" are indeed good practices. Making your yard and garden literally greener can actually cause damage to the environment if done improperly. Many people use fertilizers, weed killers, and pesticides to enhance their yards and gardens, making them green and lush.  If you use too much of these products or apply them at the wrong time, stormwater runoff can easily carry them from your lawn or garden into storm drains and ditches. From there they can end up in lakes, rivers, and streams and turn our local waterways green with algae.

Like in the garden, fertilizer in lakes and streams makes plants and algae grow. But too much algae and other aquatic plant growth can make boating, fishing and swimming unpleasant. What’s more, as the algae and other plants decay, they use up the oxygen in the water that fish and other aquatic life need.

Weed killers and pesticides are designed to kill plants and animals in your yard. However, when they get into our waters, they can kill plants and animals that are not a problem and destroy good habitat for aquatic wildlife.  Fish and amphibians are vulnerable to these chemicals as well.

What Can I Do?


  • Read the labels. Follow the instructions.
  • Use fertilizer sparingly. Many plants don’t need as much as you might think. Too much can even harm them. Also, roots, leaves and fruits need different nutrients. Test your soil to find the right dose and type to match your plants’ needs.
  • Pay attention to the weather report. Don’t treat your lawn or garden with any chemicals if rain is in the forecast.
  • Use slow-release fertilizers and other more environmentally friendly products.
  • Try non-chemical alternatives. Use compost. Plant companion plants that deter pests. Pull weeds by hand. Use mulch to prevent weed growth and help your garden retain moisture. Trade lawn for native groundcover or shrubs.
  • Get expert advice about lawn and garden products and soil testing clinics from the Cornell Cooperative Extension Association of Erie County at (716) 652-5400 ext. 137.
  • Make sure to follow all laws and regulations regarding pesticide application notification. Remember, these chemicals can be harmful to people, especially children, as well as pets. Find out more from the Erie County Department of Health.
  • Make sure to properly dispose of unused chemicals. Never dump them down a storm drain. Erie County has collected over 178,000 pounds of pesticides during Household Hazardous Waste Drop-off Events.  For more information, check out the Erie County Waste Management and Recycling webpage.

When you treat the lawn, remember you’re not just treating the lawn. Keep it green the safe and healthy way!

What If I Use "All-Natural" Products?

Remember, these products are still designed to enhance plant growth or deter pests or weeds and have the potential to degrade water quality.  It is important to follow instructions and not to over-apply.

For more information about lawn care, download the Pesticide Application, Lawn Care and Landscaping brochure here.

Clean water is important to all of us. It's up to all of us to make it happen. In recent years, point sources of water pollution like industrial wastes from factories have been greatly reduced. Now, most water pollution comes from nonpoint sources like leaking oil from vehicles, fertilizers from farms and gardens, and failing septic tanks. All these sources add up to a big pollution problem, but each of us can do small things to help clean up our water too. That adds up to a pollution solution! 

Find out more about how YOU can prevent stormwater pollution.