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Fall Leaf Collection Protects Rivers and Streams

Leaves are a big topic of research when it comes to water quality issues coming from residential neighborhoods in the fall. Rainwater leaches nutrients from leaves lying in the street, creating a kind of “leaf tea.” The nutrient-rich leaf tea then flows down storm drains and into local streams. The nutrients from leaves, especially phosphorous, cause algal blooms that lower oxygen levels in the stream–less oxygen makes it harder for fish and aquatic insects to live there. The U.S. Geological…

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Enrich Your Soil with Fall Leaves and Leaf Mold

Leaves, like all organic materials, contain nutrients. The nutrients in leaves hurt our local rivers but help our lawns and gardens. This is because nutrients encourage plant growth. In streams, excess nutrients cause oxygen-depleting algae to grow, which hurts the fish and insects that live there. In your yard, these nutrients are beneficial since they fertilize plants you want to grow, like grass and garden vegetables.   When it rains, stormwater draws the nutrients out of the leaves similar to a…

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Healthy Rivers and Streams Have More Than Just Clean Water

How healthy is your local stream, lake or pond? Finding the answer requires looking at the three major components of water quality: chemical, physical and biological. Chemical is the one that most people think of when you talk about water quality – how much of a particular pollutant is in the water? But the biology, the critters that live there like fish, insects and mussels, and the physical habitat, like riffles and pools in streams or differing depths in a…

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How Do Dams Affect Fish and Water Quality?

Although there are many factors impacting urban stream systems from pollution to stormwater runoff to structures in the floodplains, dams create a host of problems for stream systems everywhere. What Did the Fish Say When It Swam Into the Wall? First and foremost, dams fragment stream systems preventing fish from freely move upstream. Even a low-head dam can create a barrier to our midwestern fish, that unlike salmon are not built to jump any significant height. These barriers block access…

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Maintain Your Lawn to Protect Rivers and Streams

Many people like the look of a neatly mowed, bright green lawn. Plus, many communities and Home Owners Associations require residents to maintain their lawns to a certain standard. Traditional lawn maintenance depends on regular mowing, watering and chemical applications—most notably, fertilizers. Lawn fertilizer contains nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorous, that encourage turfgrass to grow quickly. However, the fertilizer we put on our lawns also affects the health of our local rivers and streams. What Lawn Fertilizer Does to…

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