AgEBB-MU CAFNR Extension

Green Horizons

Volume 22, Number 2
Spring 2018


Healthy Yards for Clear Streams:

A New Extension Program for Homeowners

By Hank Stelzer| University of Missouri Extension, School of Natural Resources

Healthy Yards for Clear Streams is an educational program designed to help homeowners be environmentally responsible with lawn and landscape practices. The goal is to promote practices that create beautiful lawns, gardens, and landscapes while reducing unnecessary use of pesticides and fertilizers that may run off and contaminate local streams and water bodies.

Oftentimes, the first thing that comes to mind when we think of water pollution is those chemicals or untreated sewage coming out the end of a pipe and into a stream or river.

But, there is another source of water pollution. As runoff from rainfall, excessive irrigation, or snowmelt moves across the landscape, it can pick up and carry away not only soil, but fertilizers and pesticides.

Recently, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service projected that homeowners use up to ten times more chemicals per acre on their lawns and landscapes than farmers do. Some of these chemicals are finding their way to our streams and lakes. A study by the United States Geological Survey found at least one pesticide, and often more than one, in almost every stream and fish sample tested, and in about half of the samples drawn from wells throughout the country.

Most people believe that storm drains go to a sewage treatment plant, but most are completely separate systems. And these stormwater systems are piped directly to streams.

In 1987, amendments to the Clean Water Act established the Nonpoint Source Management Program. The amendment addressed the need for greater federal leadership to help focus state and local nonpoint source efforts. In 1999, EPA Stormwater Phase I and II Final Rules were established requiring communities implement a public education program about the impacts of stormwater discharges on local waterbodies and the steps that can be taken to reduce pollution.

Healthy Yards for Clear Streams has two simple goals:

  1. Learn what you can do to reduce the amount of chemicals and sediment leaving your yard, and then

  2. Spread the word by showing your friends and neighbors how they can do the same!

The program consists of seven comprehensive, yet simple, units:

By implementing a small number of practices in each unit, you can earn the "Yard of Merit" distinction for your yard. These include such practices as testing your soil for proper nutrient levels, purchasing native plants, cutting your grass a little higher to reduce weeds naturally, establishing shade-tolerant groundcover under trees, identifying the pest before reaching for the pesticide, and establishing rain gardens to keep rain water on your property. The end result is a beautiful yard that also helps protect water quality.

Healthy Yards for Clear Streams is designed to be an online course and will be available on the MU Extension website in June. It will also be available through your local county Extension center if there is sufficient interest in a live, one-day workshop. Cost of the program is $40.

Theodore Roosevelt said it best, "Do what you can, with what you have, where you are." Clean water starts at home. What you do in your yard and garden can either help protect water quality, or be a potential source of pollution.

While the contribution from your individual yard may seem small, the effect you can have on those around you can really add up. And in so doing, protect our streams, our communities and our children's future.

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