Your everyday actions affect water quality. It doesn’t matter where you live—what you do in your yard affects the health of local bodies of water.
Stormwater that runs off your yard and driveway eventually makes its way to the lake – often faster than you think! That water not only adds to lake levels, it also carries sediment, nutrients, and other harmful chemicals into the lake. Any time you keep water where it falls, you prevent problems downstream. Simple actions such as directing downspouts to grassy areas, aerating your lawn, minimizing salt use, using rain barrels, or planting a rain garden in a low area all add up to big improvements for our lakes and streams.
Select a topic below to learn more:
- Grants and Technical Assistance
- Water Use & Lake Irrigation
- Rain Barrels
- Household Hazardous Waste
- Manage Animal Waste
- Lawn Care
- Winter Salt Use
- Water Cycle Glossary Terms
View our Homeowner Actions Fact Sheet for a general overview of steps you can take on your property to protect water quality.
Cost-Share Funds and Technical Assistance
Cost-share funds and free technical/design assistance are available through the Scott SWCD to residents. SWCD staff can provide information on plant selection, DIY designs and local sources of native plants for shoreline stabilization, rain gardens, native prairies and other projects.
Unlike a typical vegetable or flower garden, a raingarden is intended to improve water quality of nearby creeks, streams, lakes and rivers. They include deep-rooted native to Minnesota plants that tolerate being partially flooded on occasion. And the best part is there is little maintenance after you dig, mulch and plant your raingarden. Other than simple weeding and watering, rain gardens don’t require a lot of attention, but add life and variety to your landscape.
Read our Raingarden Fact Sheet for more information about the benefits of rain gardens and how to install one on your property.
Other resources include:
- Native Plant Selection Tool (Blue Thumb)
- A Step-by-Step Guide to Rain Gardens
- Native Plant Kit Order Form
Want to install a raingarden? Interested landowners can contact the District for more information and assistance in getting started. Raingarden workshops are held periodically through out the year. Visit our Training and Workshops page to find upcoming events.
Water Use & Lake Irrigation
Do you know how much water your lawn actually needs? According to experts from the University of Minnesota, your lawn only needs 1 inch of water per week – that includes any rain we’re received! If you have an automatic sprinkler system, make sure your sprinklers don’t go off if it has just rained – your lawn doesn’t need it! According to a recent study from the U of MN, the majority of homeowners overwater their lawns. In Minnesota, you can have a green lawn without watering your lawn all that much.
Deep, infrequent watering is better because it allows the grass to develop deep, strong root systems that are more drought tolerant and can extract water from a much larger volume of soil. By comparison, short, frequent watering causes shallow roots in turf grass which are easily stressed by drought. Don’t forget to check your sprinklers and to ensure they’re not watering pavement!
Did you know that the summer demand for water in the City of Prior Lake skyrockets and is nearly 5 times higher in than winter water demand? Residential lawn irrigation is the primary reason for the sharp increase. It is expensive to accommodate this peak demand, as the City must have the wells, treatment facilities and storage to handle the spike in demand.
Smart irrigation systems & rain sensors. Have an irrigation system? Consider installing a rain sensor or a smart irrigation controller to save water. These will stop your system from watering your lawn while it is raining and save you money on your water bill. A rain sensor can easily pay for itself over the course of just one season. Some local cities, including the City of Prior Lake (details here) have programs to help cover the cost of a smart irrigation controller.
Save money – use lake water to irrigate your lawn. If you live on a lake, use water from the lake, instead of treated city water, to water your lawn! Using lake water to irrigate your lawn will save you money on your water bill, pull less water from the aquifer and feed your lawn free fertilizer (thanks to nutrients in the lake water). Using a lake irrigation pump is an easy way to water your lawn and reduce your summer water bill. By using lake water instead of treated drinking water for irrigation, it reduces demand on the aquifer, city wells and city treatment systems, saving taxpayer money and money on your water bill.
Depending on the cost of your pump and how much you water your lawn, your pump could easily pay for itself in a season!
Rain barrels are an easy way to collect and use rainwater for your yard and landscape plants. They range in size from 50 gallons to 130 gallons – now that’s a lot of water! By using stormwater instead of drinking water for household tasks, resources are conserved and pollution is prevented from entering our lakes. You can build your own rain barrel or buy a pre-made one. Either way, make sure that the water is closed off to bugs and debris.
Want your own rain barrel? Rain barrels may also be available to order from the Scott SWCD’s annual tree sale. You can also purchase them from many home improvement stores or online.
Household Hazardous Waste
Motor oil, gasoline, cleaning chemical, leftover paint and pesticides are all common household products that can create big problems if they reach our lakes, streams, and wetlands. Unused medications are contaminants of emerging concern and are increasing found in our waters. You should NEVER dispose any of these materials in storm drains, which do not lead to a treatment plant, but rather are connected to our lakes, streams and wetlands.
Unused and expired drugs and medications can be anonymously dropped off for safe disposal at several locations in Scott County, including at the Prior Lake Police station through the Take it to the Box program. Old medications and drugs should NOT be flushed down the toilet or drain because wastewater treatment plants are not designed to remove pharmaceuticals from wastewater.
Scott County Household Hazardous Waste facility: Fortunately, Scott County has a program for residents to properly disposing of these and other household hazardous wastes. You can drop off many household hazardous waste items at the Scott County Household Hazardous Waste facility located on Highway 282 (near the intersection with CR 13). More information on household hazardous waste and a list of accepted items can be found on the Scott County HHW Facility website or by calling 952-496-8652. Find a list of other locations to dispose of household hazardous waste items here.
If you see anyone dumping any substance other than stormwater in roadside ditches and storm drains, please report it to the District by calling (952) 447-4166. For potentially hazardous materials and petroleum spills, call 9-1-1 first when there is an immediate threat to life or property.
Read our Illicit Discharge Fact Sheet to learn more about identifying illicit discharges.
Manage Animal Waste
Even your dog can affect water quality! Poorly managed animal waste can present a serous threat to our soil, groundwater, our fish and our health. Contaminants in animal waste contain E-coli bacteria, phosphorus, and other nutrients that cause excessive aquatic plant and algae growth.
So, scoop the poop – pick up after your pet and dispose of their waste in the trash or toilet.
Do not feed the ducks or geese. Feeding wild animals is not good for their survival or water quality. By luring ducks and geese with food, you increase the concentration of their feces, adding bacteria and nutrients to the water.
Did you know that unhealthy lawns and poor lawn care practices can be bad for the environment? Choosing and using fertilizers selectively, managing grass clippings and leaves, and even maintaining grass height can go a long way toward supporting a healthy lawn and protecting our waterbodies.
When planning how to maintain your lawn consider the following:
- Choose grasses and flowers that use less water
- Rake and collect your leaves, or mulch them to use on your property
- Landscape naturally with native plants
- Add a buffer between your lawn and waterbodies
- Reduce fertilizer use
- Reduce (or eliminate) pesticide use
- Choose a zero-phosphorus fertilizer. It is illegal in Minnesota to use fertilizers containing phosphorus (some exceptions apply). Visit www.mda.state.mn.us/phoslaw for more information about this regulation.
- If you think your lawn needs phosphorus, test your soil first. For information call the University of Minnesota Soil Testing Lab at 612-625-3101 or visit www.soiltest.cfans.umn.edu.
- Sweep spilled fertilizer off paved surfaces.
- Remember, compost and manure contain phosphorus too.
- For more info:
Watch the video series! Improved Lawn Maintenance: Good Choices for Clean Water
For residents, homeowners, business owners and seasonal workers.
Watch the 3 part video series now! Video Produced by the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization.
All de-icers, including rock salt, are harmful to our environment. When snow melts, de-icers travels to our lakes and rivers through storm drains. Just one teaspoon of salt can pollute five gallons of water, and it never disappears or breaks down. The only way to keep salt out of our local waters is to minimize usage in the first place. To reduce the impact on salts to our environment try these tips:
- Remove as much snow as possible with a shovel or snow blower.
- Choose the correct products – different products work at different temperatures. Normal rock salt (sodium chloride) is not effective below 15°F.
- Use sand or poultry grit for traction instead of rock salt.
- Use the appropriate amount of salt and apply only where needed – less than 4 cups of product will cover an average two-car driveway and sidewalk. If you see salt on dry pavement, it was overdone!
- Sweep up excess salt (and sand) once ice is gone & reuse it later.
Want to learn more? Watch this Winter Maintenance Workshop for homeowners presented by Scott Soil & Water Conservation District staff.