The Finger Lakes are vital shared natural resources for watershed communities, providing recreational, aesthetic, financial value in addition to serving as the primary drinking water source for many residents both in the watersheds and beyond.
Water quality issues, like toxic harmful algal blooms, are threatening the health of many Finger Lakes and what they provides for these communities. Non-point source pollution and nutrient loading from surface water runoff are major contributors to water quality issues, including HABs. Increasing riparian buffers, planting more vegetation, reducing fertilizer application, and other decisions we make on our landscapes can help protect water quality in the watershed.
To engage and educate community members, property owners, and municipal officials in watershed on the importance of making decisions on their properties that protect water quality, like the ones listed above, Cornell Cooperative Extension Onondaga held a "Landscaping for Water Quality" event in the Skaneateles Watershed this Fall, co-sponsored by our partners at the Skaneateles Lake Association and the town of Skaneateles.
Through presentations from experts and easy-to-use educational guides, watershed residents were connected with information, tools, and resources necessary to help reduce the negative impacts from storm-water runoff that leaves their properties to protect water quality in their community.
Over 200 watershed residents, municipal officials, and watershed stakeholders attended the event and learned ways to make smarter decisions on the landscape to protect water quality. Skaneateles High School students were recruited as volunteers assist during the event. This connected them to opportunity to learn about the topic, gain volunteer experience related to protecting their watershed, and network with agency staff and professionals in the environmental and public service fields.
Local nurseries who have many of the plant species recommended during event were present with materials and contact information to encourage attendees to take the next step and add plantings to their properties. All attendees left with the CCE publication "Landscaping for Water Quality," an easy-to-use guide for residents to implement the information they learned at the event on their property. For this publication, or for more information disseminated at the event, please visit cceonondaga.org.
CCE Onondaga programming in the Skaneateles Watershed is funded by the City of Syracuse Water Department.
Shannon Fabiani is a water and ecology specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension in Onondaga County.