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Reducing Phosphorus Levels in the Watershed

Blog posts reflect the views of their authors.
"watershed friendly" lawn signs
"watershed friendly" lawn signs

The Greater Sudbury Watershed Alliance (GSWA) is an independent, grassroots partnership of lake, river and creek stewardship committees, and concerned citizens working together on watershed issues in the City of Greater Sudbury.  We are currently working on reducing the amount of phosphorus reaching our waterways because of the detrimental affects phosphorus has such as contributing to toxic blue-green algae blooms.

One simple way to reduce phosphorus is to bring a bylaw to Sudbury to prohibit the use of lawn fertilizers that contain phosphorus by following the example of the province of Manitoba and 7 states in the U.S. A bylaw would allow the purchase of phosphorus if a soil test showed a lack of phosphorus or if a new lawn was being established. It would not affect vegetable garden or flowerbed applications. Most lawns over 10 years old have enough phosphorus and only need mulched grass clippings for fertilizer. Studies show in urban settings that 50% of the phosphorus in stormwater is from lawn fertilizer runoff. This excess phosphorus from lawns runs off into lakes and rivers contributing to blue-green algae blooms and other water quality issues, especially after large downpours. If homeowners do decide to use fertilize, they should use lawn fertilizers that do not contain phosphorus and should only fertilize in the fall. Grass clippings, leaves, pet waste and stray fertilizer should never be swept into streets since they end up as nutrients in our waterways as well. 

Our second phosphorus reduction project is to help lake shoreline residents create appealing, natural shoreline buffers with perennial plants. Perennials like wildflowers do not need fertilizers and help use up phosphorus from septic systems. They also prevent erosion thereby keeping phosphorus-rich soil from entering lakes and rivers. Be sure to have at least a 10 m shoreline buffer and to keep your septic system in good working order.

Because wastewater treatment facilities contribute high levels of phosphorus into our watershed, from the effluent they release directly into our waterways, we are also advocating for the most effective technologies and techniques for the management of wastewater effluent. Constructed wetlands are useful for removing phosphorus and other pollutants like heavy metals from wastewater before the water is released into the watershed. Other technologies include those which produce phosphorus pellets from wastewater effluent that can then be sold for agricultural uses.

The Greater Sudbury Watershed Alliance is working to protect and improve the watershed through education and action because we all live in a watershed. See our website for more information or connect with us on facebook!/pages/Greater-Sudbury-Watershed-Alliance/172207352809918.

Lilly Noble

Greater Sudbury Watershed Alliance


Small "Watershed friendly" lawn signs are available at reThink Green (176 Larch Street, back entrance, 9-4, weekdays).

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