Water quality issues like toxic algae blooms, invasive species, increased turbidity events are occurring around us at an alarming rate. Agencies, municipalities, and organizations across the state, county, and local levels are researching, developing, and implementing programs to reduce the occurrence and impact of HABs in our waterbodies.

Residents can have a major impact as well. There are many best practices and steps that residents of all ages can take to help protect water quality in our communities. There are agencies and resources in the area that can help connect you to resources on next steps to adopting some of the practices below, and more.

Please see excerpt taken from CCE’s Resident’s Guide 7 Actions for Better Water Quality which has steps that individuals can adopt to help protect water quality. This guide is based on potential positive impact, available support programs in the area, and the state Department of Environmental Conservation HAB Action Plan for Skaneateles Lake.

On your property you should inspect your septic tank every three years and have it pumped every five years.

You should use less (or no) fertilizers on your lawn. Always test soil before to determine application need. It is against the law to use phosphorous on lawns that don’t need it (NYSDEC). Phosphorous from fertilizers and leaking septic systems are one of the leading causes of water pollution, including HABs.

If you can, plant bigger, better riparian buffers along shorelines and streams. Riparian buffers act as a barrier, their roots significantly slowing runoff and reducing the amount of nutrient and sediment deposited in nearby waterbodies. Above the surface, leaves slow rate at which water is falling. Under the surface, roots keep soil in place, prevention erosion and pollution to lake.

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Naturalize your lawns and shorelines. Keep your grass taller (less mowing too!) and add more perennials. Keep slopes gentle. Use "soft armoring" like live plants, logs, and vegetative mats. In its natural state, the shoreline area is perfectly engineered to protect against erosion, from the natural slope to the native vegetation’s roots. Working against nature can have drastic negative impacts like costly structural damage.

In your home, conserve your water use. Turn off your faucet when not in use, take shorter showers, use water collected from a rain barrel to your wash cars, and invest in water saving toilets. Reducing the amount of water being flushed and entering drains reducing the stress on your septic system.

Shannon Fabiani


Shannon Fabiani is a water and ecology specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension in Onondaga County.

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