Leaf-free Streets before the Storm Can Lead to Cleaner Waters

October 27, 2016 10:00 AM

Madisonians love our lakes! From sitting at the Union Terrace to cheering on Ironman contestants, Madison's lakes connect us with one another and with the outdoors.  The green leaves that provide us much needed shade in the summer also contribute to the "greening" of our lakes and rivers when they collect in the streets each fall.  Decaying leaves are a great natural fertilizer for gardens and lawns, but they also release unwanted nutrients into our local waters. When it rains, the rainwater flows through leaf piles that collect in the streets and along curbs creating a "leaf tea" that is rich in dissolved phosphorus.  The phosphorus from the decaying leaves is carried through our storm sewers to the Yahara chain of lakes.  Too much phosphorus in our lakes leads to algae blooms, low oxygen levels and murky waters, none of which are good for animals living in the water or those of us who use it for recreation.

Although the City of Madison is actively involved in many efforts to improve the quality of stormwater runoff including curbside leaf collection, rain garden installations, and street sweeping, we need your help! A few simple activities can help us clean up our lakes!  Collecting leaves from the street and within 5 feet of the curb in front of your property before it rains, and piling them up onto the terraces between the street and the sidewalk will help keep phosphorus out of our lakes.  Check Madison Streets website for leaf pick up dates and other requirements so that your leaves are on the terrace for as short a time as possible. For more information on ways to "Love Your Lakes and Rivers, Don't Leaf Them" visit: http://myfairlakes.com/fall_campaign.aspx

Thanks to Alder Zach Wood and members of the Commission on the Environment for this message!


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