Water Quality Improvement Program: Holmes Lake Watershed
In 2007, the City of Lincoln launched a pilot program to offer rain garden installation for 90% off the cost, free rain barrel installation, and free no/low phosphorus fertilizer. Funding for this program was provided by the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality.
Homeowners applied for the installation of a free rain barrel or a rain garden for 90% off the cost. The program was introduced at the Holmes Lake Watershed Public Meeting at Lux Middle School on Tuesday June 26, 2007, where applications became available. The applications were reviewed and awarded on a first come, first serve basis. Installation of rain gardens and barrels began in early Fall 2007.
As part of the Holmes Lake Pollution Reduction Project (9 K) , residents of the Holmes Lake Watershed received a lawn care survey in the mail. Attached to the survey was a coupon for free no/low phosphorus fertilizer, as incentive to complete the survey. Follow-up surveys were made in 2008, 2009 and 2010 to assess lawn care trends in the area.
The three segments of the Holmes Lake Water Quality Improvement Program were rain gardens, rain barrels, and the use of no/low phosphorus fertilizer. Promotion of these practices was intended to increase awareness about the small changes in lawn care and landscaping practices that can make positive impacts on water quality.
A rain garden is a small garden located in a depression, where it can collect runoff water from your property. The garden is planted with native shrubs, perennials, and flowers. Rain gardens are water quality features that reduce the amount of runoff leaving your property collecting debris, chemicals, heavy metals, and soil particles on the way. These pollutants enter streams and lakes untreated, resulting in fish kills, algae blooms, a decrease in drinkable water sources, unsafe conditions for fishing and swimming, and a decrease in aquatic life.
A rain barrel is any above ground container modified to receive, store, and distribute rooftop runoff for non-drinking uses. Rain barrels collect water from rainfall, reducing the amount of runoff and pollution from individual properties. Rain barrels also decrease the need for municipal water use during the peak summer months. The EPA reports that 40% of water usage in the summer is for washing cars and watering lawns and gardens, tasks which can be accomplished with water collected in a rain barrel.
No/low phosphorus fertilizer is typically used on soils which already contain plenty of phosphorus, like those of Eastern Nebraska. When excessive and unnecessary amounts of fertilizer or pesticides are used, the extra nutrients are carried off the lawn by rainfall or irrigation. Water carrying these excess chemicals reaches waterways untreated, creating excess plant growth, fish kills, and algae blooms. In Holmes Lake, so much phosphorus is added to the lake every year, that a reduction of 97% is necessary to meet water quality standards. Promoting the use of no/low phosphorus fertilizer will reduce the amount of phosphorus added to the lake every year while keeping lawns green and healthy.
Lawn Care Survey
In 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010 homeowners in the Holmes Lake Watershed received lawn care surveys in the mail. Homeowners could bring the completed survey to Campbells Nursery & Garden Center on 56th and Pine Lake Road to receive 2 free bags of no phosphorus fertilizer. The goal of collecting survey results was to evaluate and better understand the common lawn care practices within the Holmes lake Watershed and to gauge the effectiveness of stormwater quality education efforts.
For More Information
This program is no longer available, however, there is a 50/50 cost-share program that will be available in February 2015 for property owners through the Sustainable Landscapes Cost Share Program. This project encourages water quality practices to help to increase stormwater infiltration and decrease lawn watering needs. For more information, please visit the Sustainable Landscapes Cost Share Program page or call the Watershed Management Division of Public Works at 402-441-7075.