Starve the Algae! Save the Lake!

With grant funding from the Chautauqua Lake and Watershed Management Alliance, the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy encourages and enables property owners to Starve the Algae! Save the Lake! Each summer, Chautauqua Lake is plagued by Harmful Algae Blooms (HABs) that interfere with enjoyment of the lake and that can be harmful to people, pets and wildlife. These HABs are fed primarily by nitrogen and phosphorus, two chemicals commonly found in lawn fertilizers. When it rains, these chemicals are carried off of lawns and into the watershed, eventually ending up in the lake. By reducing or eliminating the use of lawn fertilizer in the Chautauqua Lake Watershed, we can reduce the occurrence of HABs and nuisance plant growth within Chautauqua Lake.

Choosing to give up lawn fertilizers to benefit the lake doesn’t mean giving up on a healthy, green lawn. By employing the right lawncare methods, property owners still can enjoy a beautiful lawn while improving the health of Chautauqua Lake and its watershed.

To Starve the Algae! Save the Lake! homeowners can:

  • Set mower blades higher. The ideal height for a healthy lawn is 3 inches. Setting mower blades to this higher height allows grass to take root and grow stronger.
  • Let clippings lie. Rather than bagging lawn clippings, homeowners can naturally fertilize their lawns by letting clippings lie. As the clippings decompose, they will feed the laws.
  • Aerate the lawn. Aerating lawns regularly breaks up compact soil. That allows the soil to absorb water and nutrients fully for a healthier lawn. Aeration also helps lawns to better filter any nutrients or pollutants that run off of roadways, rooftops or driveways, preventing them from reaching the lake.
  • Turn leaves into mulch. Leaves can provide valuable nutrients to lawns. In the fall, homeowners can mow over leaves for an instant nutrient boost for lawns, or leaves can be raked into a pile and allowed to decompose over the winter for a spring compost that’s perfect for flower beds and gardens.
  • Plant grasses that thrive in the local climate. Seeding lawns with fescue grass can save homeowners from needing fertilizers or extra care. These grasses are better suited to western New York, and they will require less frequent cutting and less fertilization to thrive.
  • Plaint rain gardens and shoreline buffers. Rain gardens and shoreline buffers are swales of native trees, shrubs, grasses and wildflowers that are specifically designed to intercept and slow runoff before it reaches the lake, a stream or a drain. Planting rain gardens and buffers along Chautauqua Lake shorelines and tributaries helps filter nutrient runoff to the lake.
  • Replant portions of the yard with native species. Homeowners can have a positive impact on the health of the Chautauqua Watershed by naturalizing portions of their lawns. Native flowers, grasses, shrubs and trees grow deep roots that can help filter nutrients from water entering the watershed. They also benefit native wildlife and pollinators and reduce yard maintenance.

Through the Starve the Algae! Save the Lake! grant, the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy is able to offer consultations to property owners in the watershed and along the lake shoreline in improving their properties to reduce nutrient runoff to Chautauqua Lake. Visit our consultations page for more information.