Put Chautauqua Lake On A Diet

By feeding Chautauqua Lake fewer nutrients, such as phosphorus and nitrogen, we can address the root causes of the algae and weeds that affect our enjoyment of the lake. Submitted photo

Chautauqua Lake needs to be put on a diet! The lake’s frequent algae blooms and overabundance of weeds are symptoms of a lake that has been “fed” an excessive amount of nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen, as well as eroding sediments. The prescription for an overfed lake is a low-nutrient diet, and everyone can help in this effort.

More than ever, now is the time to starve the algae (and weeds!) to save the lake!

Anyone who has a home or business in the Chautauqua Lake drainage basin is part of a developed area that contributes nutrients to the lake. Water runs over our lawns, roofs, storm drains, driveways and roadside ditches and carries with it fertilizers, pet wastes and sediments as it flows to our streams and the lake. If all owners of developed land (whether you are a seasonal or year-round homeowner, condominium association, businesses or residential/commercial property owner), would take steps to reduce nutrients entering the lake from their properties, the collective effort would have a big impact! So, what can you do?

One, take a look at your property. Chances are that rainwater flowing across your property either flows directly to the lake or discharges to a road ditch or storm drain that eventually flows to the lake. Maintain and use your property in such a way that the flow of nutrients to the lake from your property is minimal.

Two, reduce or eliminate your use of lawn fertilizers. Fertilizers containing nitrogen and/or phosphorus feed lake algae and weeds, just like they feed your lawn, so it’s important to avoid regular chemical fertilizer treatments. If you do fertilize your lawn, have it tested first to see exactly which nutrients it needs. Apply fertilizer only in the fall to promote healthy turf root growth, rather than in the spring or summer when it can promote algae and aquatic plant growth.

Additionally, there is no need to subscribe to a multiple chemical treatment service for your lawn unless it is based on a thorough evaluation including an laboratory nutrient analysis. Some commercial lawn maintenance firms recommend four or five fertilizer treatments a year without a laboratory analysis of your soil even though most established western New York lawns naturally have plenty of phosphorus.

As an alternative to maintaining turf that requires fertilizers, consider over-seeding your lawn in the fall with fescue grass varieties that can survive without fertilization and require less frequent mowing.

Three, decrease runoff from your property. To help keep the lake on a low-nutrient diet, our properties need to act more like sponges, which absorb rainwater and associated nutrients, and less like pipelines, which direct runoff straight to the lake. Disconnect roof down spouts from pipes leading to storm sewers and ditches, and instead, re-route this nutrient-laden rainwater across your lawn or into a rain garden so that it doesn’t end up in the lake feeding the plants and algae. Also, don’t “roll” your lawn. Instead, have it “core-aerated” to help it absorb oxygen and nutrient-laden storm water.

Grow an un-mowed buffer between your yard and the closest stream, lake, ditch or drain. The plants in this buffer will slow the rainwater runoff, which will intercept and filter out sediment and nutrients and prevent them from entering ditches, streams and lakes. Native plants, trees and shrubs are more effective than lawns in holding shorelines and streambanks in place. If an un-mowed buffer is not your style, you can achieve the same benefits with designed plantings of native flowers, shrubs and trees as your buffer. As an extra bonus, native plants attract birds and butterflies!

Four, remove pet waste. Clean up after your pets and flush waste down the toilet or place it in the trash. According to the “Keep it Clean Partnership,” dog feces have higher phosphorus concentrations than found in cow and swine manure, and the average dog produces about 275 pounds of waste per year! (www.keepitcleanpartnership.org) That’s a lot of waste and nutrients that can enter our streams and lakes if not removed!

Join us in putting Chautauqua Lake on a low nutrient diet — together we can address the root causes of the algae and weeds that affect our enjoyment of the lake!

The Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy is a local not-for-profit organization that is dedicated to preserving and enhancing the water quality, scenic beauty and ecological health of the lakes, streams, wetlands and watersheds of the Chautauqua region. For more information, call 664-2166 or visit www.chautauquawatershed.org or www.facebook.com/chautauquawatershed. Funding for CWC’s “Starve the Algae ~ Save the Lake!” education and outreach has been provided in part by the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation.