Lake-O-Gram Vol. IV, Issue 7: “What’s leaves got to do with it?”

Healthy Lakes Yard Tour

What do fallen leaves have to do with lake health? When leaves on our streets and terraces steep in rainwater, they create a nutrient-rich tea that enters the lakes via storm drains and fuels excess plant and algae growth.

Each year, our urban communities contribute about 30% of the total phosphorus that enters lakes Mendota, Monona, Waubesa, Kegonsa, and Wingra. That’s about 27,000 pounds of phosphorus from leaves, soil, and other urban runoff.

Fortunately, our community has an action plan and is working to prioritize and implement projects in the watershed. If you have a moment—and perhaps a rake—you can help. Here are three ways to start:

  • Make a personal pledge to keep the leaves on your property away from the streets, where they are most at risk for leeching into stormwater.
  • Take three minutes to complete our resident yard care survey, created in partnership with local municipalities. We want to know how you already manage your yard and stormwater, and how we can make leaf management easier for you.
  • Attend our Healthy Lakes Yard Tour this Friday, October 17th to learn how to site a rain garden, or install and use a rain barrel, then teach your neighbors!

Read on for more information and other ways that you can help.

In partnership,

The CLA Team

CLA yard care survey
Lake-friendly leaf management

Healthy lakes yard tour
What’s phosphorus?
Love your lakes, don’t leaf them!
Join CLA @ the Arb!

Yard Care Survey

The Clean Lakes Alliance is partnering with local municipalities to learn how you deal with fall leaves and stormwater.

Please take a few minutes to complete a brief yard care survey by clicking the button below. Your feedback will guide future efforts to protect our lakes and streams. Those who complete the survey will be eligible for the following prizes, donated by our sponsors:

  1. A free lawn consultation and $25 off the cost of a Fall 2014 or Spring 2015 lawn aeration from Weed Man™ (new customers only).
  2. Entry into a prize drawing for $400 in lawn care services from Weed Man™.
  3. A special coupon code for $25 off the price of any rain barrel or compost bin from RainReserve™.

These efforts are made possible through generous support, including a stormwater grant from the Village of Deforest and a C.D. Besadny Conservation Grant from the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin to support CLA’s leaf management initiatives.


How-to: lake-friendly leaf management

This fall, show your love for our lakes by using the leaves that fall on your property to improve the health and beauty of your yard.

Clean Lakes Alliance - storm drain stamp

To maximize protection of our lakes, keep your leaves off the curb. When used correctly, leaves can be an inexpensive alternative to traditional yard-care practices.

How to keep it local:

  1. Mulch fallen leaves into your lawn with a lawnmower – your lawn will love it!
  2. Use leaves to mulch around trees, shrubs, and gardens.
  3. Consider making leaf mold, an inexpensive substitute for peat moss that can increase water-holding capacity of soils by fifty percent. All you need is an out-of-the-way corner of your yard and a little bit of patience.

If you have more leaves than you can use, be sure to dispose of them correctly. By doing so, you help keep our lakes clean and healthy.

How to dispose of leaves:

  1. Check your municipality’s website for leaf pick-up schedules (if applicable).
  2. Time your raking to minimize leaves’ time on the curb waiting for pick-up.
  3. Consider clearing fallen leaves out of your street gutters and storm drains where the risk of phosphorus-leaching is highest. Use common sense and please take safety precautions.
  4. Visit cleanlakesalliance.org/volunteer-days/ for more citizen action tips.

Through the Yahara CLEAN Strategic Plan for Phosphorus Reduction, our community has set the goal of preventing 4,100 pounds of phosphorus runoff into our lakes through urban leaf management by 2025. With one pound of phosphorus capable of producing 500 pounds of algae, urban leaf management could have a huge impact on our lakes.

CLA and our partners are working to promote better leaf management, and make lake-friendly yard care more convenient to residents. Through our citizen action initiatives, we hope to help residents make decisions and create habits that benefit our lakes. For more information, please contact our watershed program manager, Paul Dearlove, at paul@cleanlakesalliance.com.


Healthy Lakes Yard Tour

On Friday, October 17th from 3 – 5 p.m., CLA will present a showcase of lake-friendly yard practices hosted on a local homeowner’s lawn. The event will highlight the direct actions that residents can take to help protect and improve our local waters, and will include a C.D. Besadny Conservation Grant award presentation by the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin to support CLA’s leaf management initiatives.

Events include:

  • How to install and use a rain barrel by RainReserve.
  • Composting 101 by RainReserve.
  • City of Madison leaf collection by George Dreckman, City of Madison recycling coordinator.
  • Tips for managing fall leaves by David Thompson, Friends of Lake Wingra board member.
  • Rethinking roof and gutter downspouts by Clean Lakes Alliance staff.
  • Healthy turf for healthy lakes by Weed Man Lawn Care.
  • How to site a rain garden by the University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum Earth Partnership for Schools.
  • C.D. Besadny Conservation Grant award presentation by the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin to support CLA’s leaf management initiatives.

Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin logo

Refreshments will be donated by Steep & Brew Coffee and special help will be provided by Boy Scout Troop 16. Join CLA for a discovery tour of simple actions that can transform any lawn into a beautiful, lake-friendly yard.


What is phosphorus?

Phosphorus is the nutrient found in manure, leaves, soil, and lake sediments that fertilizes plant and algae growth in the lakes. One pound of phosphorus can promote the growth of 500 pounds of algae.


Love your lakes, don’t leaf them

adapted from an article by the Office of Lakes & Watersheds

If you love the abundance of water resources we have been blessed with here in Dane County, don’t leaf the lakes! Preliminary results from a four-year federal and state research project in our area show that phosphorus concentrations in runoff are much higher in fall in areas where municipalities do not conduct leaf pickup or street sweeping programs. Leaf removal from municipal streets is therefore a critical element in our phosphorus reduction work.

To show your love for our lakes and support for leaf management initiatives, display your very own “Love Your Lakes, Don’t Leaf Them” yard sign. For more information or to obtain yard signs, visit www.ripple-effects.com or call (608) 224-3764. Visit your local town, village, or city hall and inquire about helpful tips, flyers, and signs that emphasize the importance of preventing algae-feeding nutrients from entering storm drains.

Love your lakes, don't leaf them. Rock River Coalition

No matter how far we live from the water’s edge, our storm drains or ditches lead to the nearest lake or stream, so each of us shares the responsibility of limiting nutrient growth in our lakes by keeping leaves out of the street.

The Madison Area Municipal Storm Water Partnership (MAMSWaP) is working with the Rock River Stormwater Group to reduce the amount of pollution making its way to our lakes and streams. Both the Yahara chain of lakes and the Yahara River ultimately drain to the Rock River. Thank you for helping to Renew the Rock by reducing stormwater pollution. Learn more at www.ripple-effects.com and www.renewtherock.com.


Join CLA @ the Arb!

Renew the Blue volunteer day

Join CLA at the UW-Madison Arboretum Wingra Oak Savannah on November 1st for the last Renew the Blue volunteer day of the season! Volunteers will help remove invasive woody shrubs and perform other lakeshore restoration tasks. Visit our website to learn more and RSVP. Supplies and refreshments provided.


Let’s Get Social



Find us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and let’s connect!

Having fun on the lakes? Tag your post or picture with #crazy4lakes!

See someone doing good for the lakes? Use #renewtheblue – we may repost or retweet you!

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