By EILEEN OAKS
The Watershed Foundation Marketing and Outreach Specialist
Autumn marks the beginning of a beautiful season near the lakes. The ground becomes blanketed in crunchy, colorful leaves, and the excitement of summer is replaced by the serenity of chilly nights next to a bonfire.
Many property owners take this time to finish final yard work and appreciate the beauty of the colder season. Getting chores done quickly and with minimal effort is always a priority, but taking care of the environment should also be at the forefront of everyone’s minds.
It can be very tempting to simply use our lakes as nature’s garbage disposal. Many people don’t know that drains, even miles from our water resources, go directly into our lakes without any type of filtration or cleaning process. Some homeowners may assume that their leaves don’t make much difference in the big picture, so dumping a few more down the roadside drains or directly into the rivers and lakes can’t cause that much trouble. This common misconception bombards the lake in the fall with bonfire ashes, dead plants and yard work remnants, introducing more pollution to our waters.
Emptying yard debris into the lakes can be a major water quality issue. The organic matter builds sediment that fills in the lakes near shore. Then, as the debris decomposes it causes nutrient overloading in the water, creating next summer’s algae blooms and increasing the growth of nuisance weeds. In certain instances, it also increases the necessity to dredge out parts of the lakes. The decomposing plant matter also decreases dissolved oxygen levels that can lead to the death of aquatic organisms, like fish.
As tempting as it is to simply dump or leave your leaves instead of properly disposing them, we all play a part in keeping our lakes and rivers healthy. Keeping the lakes and rivers around for future generations is as simple as making small conscientious decisions every day.
Taking care of the waters in our community can be as easy as mulching or bagging your leaves, or for the more ambitious, starting a compost pile for your garden next season. For more information on ways to start your compost, visit KC Recycling Depot’s website, or give them a call at (574) 372-3087.
The Watershed Foundation was founded in 1997 to protect and improve water quality in the Upper Tippecanoe River Watershed; spanning from Crooked Lake in Whitley County to Lake Tippecanoe in Kosciusko County. The Clean Waters Partnership was founded a year ago as an extension of TWF in the Warsaw-Winona area. Over the past 19 years, TWF has worked with farmers and lake residents to implement over 150 water quality improvement projects. In the last three years alone, these efforts have prevented over 556 million pounds of weeds and algae from growing in area lakes and streams.