Clean Curbs for Healthy Lakes

Storm drain and debris - springtime

A warm forecast is in store for southern Wisconsin this week. With the warmer weather comes a good reminder for the community that any debris that has collected in snowbanks and curbs over the winter will end up in our lakes if it isn’t removed. By taking small actions in our own neighborhoods, it can make a big impact on lake health. Healthy lakes are one sign of a healthy community.

“In Madison, storm sewers lead to the lakes. In the fall, we ask community members to rake leaves out of the street. This time of year, we want people to remove leftover leaves and debris ahead of melting snow and spring rain.”

James Tye, Clean Lakes Alliance Executive Director
Storm drain with wet street - Keeping our streets and storm drains free of debris is one step toward healthy lakes
Storm drain with a wet street

Help the lakes at home

Clean Lakes Alliance is asking residents to address left-behind salt, sand, and debris in front of their homes or businesses. Warm weather and rain in the forecast this week are increasing the urgency for action. It’s important for residents to remain safe before they step into the street to clean curbs and gutters. The following are items to remove and how to dispose of them:


Leaves contain phosphorus, which fuels cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) blooms that close beaches. Stormwater passes through leaves, leaving the leaf behind, but taking the phosphorus with it to our lakes. Rake up any leftover leaves from the fall. Move leaves onto the terrace lawn where the phosphorus can fertilize lawns and not the lakes.

Storm drain and debris - springtime
Storm drain with debris in the springtime


Collecting leftover salt is a great way to help the lakes. It can be stored in a bucket for use next winter. If the salt contains a large amount of debris, it can be discarded in the trash. Get more tips from Wisconsin Salt Wise.

Leftover salt on a sidewalk at the end of the winter season - sweep up leftover salt for healthy lakes
Leftover salt on a sidewalk at the end of the winter season


Like salt, collecting sand can help the lakes. Save the sand and use it again next winter. Removing large piles that have collected is the most important step.

Group picks up trash near Monona Bay
Group picks up trash near Monona Bay

Pick up trash for healthy lakes

Collect bottles, wrappers, papers, and any other debris. These items can be recycled or discarded in the trash. Debris like this can plug up storm sewers, which increases the chances for flooding after heavy rain events.

Increasing precipitation

With a recent history of increased rain, and larger 24-hour rain events, it is important to keep the lakes in mind with spring yard maintenance. The more the community can do on the land, the better water quality will be in Madison’s lakes and streams.

For more tips on how to help the lakes at home, visit cleanlakesalliance.org/top10.

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