April 1, 2015

Water quality and your lawn

Turf in a backyardThe health of our lakes, streams and rivers is critically important to the ecosystems around us. The cleaner they are, meaning fewer pollutants, the better.

In the urban environment, runoff (melting snow or rainfall not absorbed by forest, parks and lawns, is immediately ushered into storm sewers or directly into water courses. Along the way, runoff picks up pollutants such as detergents, oils, and soil particles.  You might not think so, but soil particles are considered pollutants in water.  Indeed, whenever we have a big storm, the swollen streams and rivers are brown as a result of soil erosion from various sources, including development…

As hokey as it sounds, soil belongs on the land-not in our water.  The more we can limit the amount of runoff, the cleaner our streams and rivers are. 

So how does that big green blob of living plants called your lawn affect runoff and water quality? 
  • In a well maintained, 3500 square foot lawn there will be 6 turf plants per square inch (25.4 millimetres), 850 turf plants per square foot (30.45 square meters) for a total of 3 million turf plants, in other words that healthy lawn, rather than letting it flow into the storm sewers is a giant sponge, that absorbs large amounts of water
Research compiled by Lakehead University showed that a properly fertilized and well maintained lawn is one of the most efficient ground covers at limiting runoff.

But the benefits of your lawn don’t stop there. Consider these facts:
  • A dense, healthy lawn prevents run-off, absorbing rainfall six times more effectively than a wheat field and four times better than a hay field.
  • Up to 90% of the weight of a grass plant is in its roots.
  • Grass clippings are approximately 90% water, by weight.
  • Clippings contain nutrients useable to the grass, when left on the lawn.
  • A lawn, 50 by 50 feet (15.24 by 15.24 meters) (2,500 square feet) (232 square meters) releases enough oxygen for a family of four, while absorbing carbon dioxide, ozone, hydrogen fluoride, and other airborne pollutants.
  • Turfgrass helps control pollution, trapping much of an estimated 12 million tons (10.9 million metric tons) of dust and dirt released annually into the atmosphere.
  • The front lawns of eight average houses have the cooling effect of about 70 tons (68 metric tons) of air conditioning, while the average home-size central air conditioner has only a 3 to 4 ton capacity (2.7 to 3.9 metric tons).
  • Lawn fertilizer belongs only on the grass. Sweep up any residual granules left on your driveway or sidewalk, and re deposit on the grass.
  • Clippings too, belong on only your lawn. Blow clippings from your mower back onto the lawn, not on the street.
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