Sweet Water

Are you a Responsible Raker?

We are in the midst of leaf season here in southeastern Wisconsin!

While that means beautiful autumn colors and delightfully crunchy leaves underfoot, it also signals a spike in phosphorus entering our local waterways and waterbodies.

As leaves clog our storm drains and on our streets during rain events, they effectively start becoming a kind of “leaf tea” that can leach excess phosphorus into the storm sewers. This is a problem whether you live in a combined sewer system or separated system, because the treatment plant either has to work harder to rid the water of this nutrient or the water goes directly into our local lakes and rivers. Excess phosphorus is a health issue for wildlife and for our recreational use of the water because high levels of this nutrient can lead to algal blooms that deplete the amount of oxygen in the water and release toxins into the water.

The good news: there are a number of actions that you take at home to alleviate this problem!

While not every municipality has a leaf collection program, if yours does, make sure you are familiar with the collection schedule and practices. Most municipalities have this information available on their Department of Public Works page. Some communities collect bagged leaves, some collect leaves that have been piled on terraces, and some collect leaves that have been piled on the streets.

A few tips:

  • Try to pile the leaves in the correct location as close to the collection time or date as possible to avoid leaves on the terrace being blown into the street or leaves on the street being washed down to the storm drain during a rain event.

  • If some leaves are left behind in the street after the collection, try to clear them from the storm drains to reduce blockage and flooding during rain events.

  • If your municipality does not have a collection program or if you want to be more environmentally conscious, you can leave your leaves right on your lawn or garden with a little prep work. Just bring out your lawn mower one more time for the season and mow right over the leaves. This will create a mulch that will help protect your lawn and garden during the winter months. You can also compost the shredded leaves by adding a little bit at a time to your compost heap, and in the spring you can spread the nutrient-rich compost on your garden.

That’s right, as it turns out, the most responsible of rakers may not need to rake much at all -- because they are magnificent mulchers!

Happy fall from the Sweet Water Team!

Lake Michigan Stakeholders Meeting - October 25th at the Global Water Center

Described as "Wisconsin's Voice for Lake Michigan" on its website, Lake Michigan Stakeholders is having one of its two annual membership meetings on Thursday, October 25th at the Global Water Center in Milwaukee. This group may be of interest to southeastern Wisconsin policy-makers, business owners, residents, and others who have a stake in the health of Lake Michigan.

Described as "Wisconsin's Voice for Lake Michigan" on its website, Lake Michigan Stakeholders is having one of its two annual membership meetings on Thursday, October 25th at the Global Water Center in Milwaukee. This group may be of interest to southeastern Wisconsin policy-makers, business owners, residents, and others who have a stake in the health of Lake Michigan.

Since 2005, Lake Michigan Stakeholders (LMS) has been inspiring and engaging stewards around the Lake Michigan basin to champion water quality and watershed viability. LMS initially began as a series of conversations to address a lack of coordination between stakeholders, lawmakers, state agencies, and other interested groups in preserving freshwater resources. During its development, LMS formed a steering committee which serves as the principle decision-making body for the organization and is comprised of individuals from a wide range of sectors and professional backgrounds. Led by the steering committee, LMS holds bi-annual membership meetings, provides education and resources on watershed health and best practices, provides stewardship recognition awards, and engages with a range of stakeholders from community groups and non-profit organizations, to policy-makers and private enterprise.

Over the years, water quality has become a prominent topic of discussion statewide. LMS has continued to bring important conversations about stewardship and resources directly to communities all across Wisconsin through their bi-annual Membership Meetings. The location and topics may change for each meeting based on regional themes but, as noted by Todd Verboomen, a member of the steering committee, the conversations are becoming increasingly industry-inclusive. Verboomen, who also serves as Associate Environmental Planner for the East Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission, believes that continuing to increase the types of organizations, companies, and individual stakeholders that participate in these conversations is key to ensuring that the meetings serve their intended purpose.

This fall’s meeting will be held on Thursday, October 25th at the Global Water Center in Milwaukee and will be highlighting topics including urban infrastructure issues, shoreline and beach management, and challenges around legacy phosphorous. LMS is looking forward to engaging with the many facets of Milwaukee’s water sector. According to Verboomen, “When you think of the solution of improving water quality, we’re all in this together. Doesn’t matter if you’re a big producer or a backyard garden, you’re a part of Lake Michigan and we’re all part of the solution.”

Click on the button above for more information on how to register for LMS’ fall meeting!