What is being done to reduce
phosphorus in the Lake?
Lake Champlain has been the focus of renewed investments in watershed management practices by the US federal government, the state and provincial governments, and municipalities. Outreach programs now are delivered to new audiences—and to old audiences in new ways—to change personal and business behaviors and habits in all parts of society to reduce pollution of Lake Champlain.
Farmers, resource management agencies, and local watershed organizations have long recognized the nutrient pollution problem from farms in the watershed. In the last few years, many groups have formed new partnership agreements to share information, target financial resources, and optimize time in order to better manage the worst problem areas in the watershed. New computing tools (such as Critical Source Analyses) allow resource managers to identify and assess critical locations likely to be contributing large amounts of phosphorus load, and to identify best management practices to reduce or remove that problem.
Meanwhile, federal and state agencies have recognized the need to assist farmers to reduce phosphorus pollution. In 2014 alone, more than $60 million in new federal funding was directed to the Lake Champlain watershed to help reduce phosphorus pollution from agricultural operations. States are developing improved rules to tighten regulation of farms of all sizes as well, including increased oversight of small farms, strengthening required agricultural practices such as livestock exclusion from streams, and removal of current use property tax reductions for farms that do not comply.
In 2014, the State of Vermont passed a law to better protect shoreline areas from development and to increase their resistance to erosion. The resulting new rules promote more riparian vegetation that protects the lakeshore from wave action during periods of high water levels and improves the diversity of aquatic habitats near the waters’ edge. In 2015, Vermont passed a new water quality law that created a “Clean Water Fund” and will further increase requirements and enforcement of water quality regulations on agriculture and urban lands, as well as education and outreach programming.
Fertilizers sold in retail stores and by large agricultural feed and fertilizers suppliers are major contributors of nonpoint source phosphorus pollution in Lake Champlain. Under the new water quality law in Vermont, commercial phosphorus fertilizers sold to the public for non-agricultural use will be subject to a new tax (there is no new tax on agricultural fertilizers). The “Don’t P on Your Lawn” campaign initiated in 2010 targeted retail sale of fertilizers through workshops and public service announcements. Additionally, the Lawn to Lake Workgroup developed signs for retail stores in Vermont in 2011 at storeowners’ request. Legislation enacted in both New York and Vermont bans the retail sale of phosphorus-containing fertilizer for use on established lawns, unless a soil test indicates the need for additional phosphorus.
Test your Turf: Test your lawn and garden soil before you fertilize. You may need less than you think or none at all.
Healthy Soil, Healthy Lawn: Foster soil health in your lawn and garden rather than relying on lawn care products that import more nutrients into the watershed.
Let It Grow: When mowing, set the blade high. Tall grass is healthier and grows deeper roots, helping it to outcompete weeds.
Leave It on the Lawn: Use your grass clippings as mulch on your lawn. This recycles nutrients and decreases the need for watering.
Rein in the Rain: Redirect your gutter downspouts to the lawn, plant a rain garden, or install a rain barrel.
Wash Cars on the Lawn: Wash your car on the grass instead of on the driveway to help prevent detergents from washing into the Lake; or take your car to a carwash where the water is treated after use.
Shore up the Water’s Edge: Plant native vegetation along shorelines and river banks to hold soil in place and reduce erosion.