Writer: Lorri Jones, 281-855-5620, firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact: John Jacob, 281-291-9252, email@example.com
CLEAR LAKE — Many homeowners do not realize their lawn care practices might be contributing to the decay of the Galveston Bay and surrounding bayous. Even conscientious individuals who understand environmental issues may unintentionally contribute to runoff pollution.
Now recognized as the major form of water pollution damaging bayous and bays, runoff pollution is storm water and the pollutants that get in it on the way to the bay. It includes grease and oil from parking lots and garbage and pollution coming from homes and yards.
“Landscaped lawns require constant doses of fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides,” said John Jacob, water quality specialist with the Texas Agricultural Extension Service. “If those chemicals are not used completely by the lawn, they end up in the runoff and then in the bay.”
Excess fertilizers in bayous and bays result in fish kills every year because of over-fertilization of the algae in the water.
Pesticides are directly toxic to aquatic wildlife and can accumulate in the food chain, sometimes ending up on the consumer’s plate, Jacob continued.
Green, suburban, single-species lawns are not natural, and their maintenance can create a vicious cycle. They must be mowed and fertilized constantly to maintain that flawless appearance. More fertilizer requires more mowing. Applying pesticides to yards disrupts the balance of ecology, thus requiring more pesticides.
“Homeowners often apply 10 times the amount of pesticides to land as does the typical farmer,” Jacob said. “This is not healthy for the homeowner nor the bayous where the runoff goes.”
So what’s a homeowner to do? According to Jacob, the answer is simple: Work less!
“Start by fertilizing the lawn less. Most lawns can get by with very little fertilization, often less than once a year,” he explained.
Mow the lawn as high as you can, and leave the clippings on the ground. The clippings will return nutrients to the lawn and act as fertilizer, so leave them where they can do some good. In addition, thicker lawns reduce evaporation and the lawn will require less watering. Water only when the grass starts to wilt.
“Over half of the municipal water supply in the summer is used strictly for watering lawns. This summer saw rationing in several parts of Houston, and the problem has been even worse in years with severe drought,” Jacob added.
Apply weed and bug killers only when there is a real problem. Be sure to follow the instructions on the packaging. The philosophy that more is better is not true and can actually damage the lawn as well as contribute to runoff pollution.
Finally, the best way to reduce yard work and individual contribution to pollution is to reduce the amount of lawn in the landscape.
“Single species lawns are unsustainable in our region,” said Jacob. “Ask the nursery professional for plants that are adapted to our area, that can take both a drought and a flood every other year and still look good. Native plants, or other adapted plants, don’t require the fertilizers and pesticides that lawns do, and require very little water after the first year or two.”
For more information on how to design a water smart lawn, call the Texas Agricultural Extension Service at (281) 291-9252 and ask for the Water Smart Landscape brochure.