This is part of a series of monthly columns by local water experts. These columns on our water are a collaboration between the League of Women Voters Upper Mississippi River Region and other environmental agencies and groups in Anoka County. To learn more about the League of Women Voters, visit

As migrating birds return heralding spring, lake and river ice melts. Our dreams of summer grow. From lakes and ponds to rivers and streams, summer is when we flock like migrating birds to our favorite waterways. We Minnesotans are fortunate to have easy access to clean and healthy water.

It’s easy to forget that our actions, or inaction, have impact on these waters. And, these actions matter even if we don’t live on water. Runoff from all properties drains eventually to our waterway or groundwater, so we all have an impact.

Sometimes, even when we think we are doing the right thing, we are working against the health of our waters. For example, mowing to the edge of creeks, lakes and ponds creates prime opportunity for erosion of the bank edge. The turfgrass roots simply aren’t long enough to hold the soil well. So the soil falls into the waterway, filling it in bit by bit. The property owner loses land, and the water body loses capacity to hold water. The result can be flooding, especially during large rains or snowmelt.

What we do on the land impacts our water.

Also, those soil particles take along any fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides or other chemicals attached to them. By keeping soil in place, this pollution can be reduced. One way to keep soil in place is to have plants with long roots along waterways. These buffer zones act as natural pollution filters; the wider they are, the more filtration can happen. This is why buffers are required along ditches and in some areas along stormwater ponds.

What we do on the land impacts our water.

Erosion causes enough water pollution nationally that regulations are in place by federal law. In Minnesota, the Pollution Control Agency enforces this law through a permit program for local governments. Since much erosion is from urban stormwater runoff, there is a municipal stormwater permit. It is good for five years, just renewed this past fall.

The new permit has many new requirements to address new pollution issues. Besides more monitoring of erosion control practices, expect to learn more about runoff pollution from pet waste and winter salt.

The Coon Creek Watershed District has responsibility to comply with the new state/federal stormwater permit as well as the municipalities. The land that drains eventually into Coon Creek, its watershed, produces stormwater runoff. So we have a stormwater permit process for looking at impacts at a watershed scale of land-disturbing activities.

Since runoff comes from all properties, there are things we all can do to help.

1. If you have a lawn, keep grass 3 inches tall so that the roots will grow deeper. Keep it aerated and create good soil by keeping grass clippings on the lawn to recycle nutrients.

2. You can also plant a butterfly garden, hummingbird garden, native wildflower garden, pollinator or rain garden (

3. Direct downspouts onto the yard away from the house or building, not onto your driveway, patio or sidewalk.

4. If you belong to a home owners association, maintain a natural planting around any ponds or waterways, and find out if the landscape contractor is certified for Smart Turf Maintenance by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency:

What we do on the land impacts our water.

Simple lawn practices can help prevent stormwater pollution and flood prevention.

Dawn Doering is the Information & Education Coordinator at Coon Creek Watershed District. Information provided by Coon Creek Watershed District. Check out our website at

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