A watershed is in your backyard Water Quality Tips • its roof is the sky • Leave or plant a vegetated buffer strip between water edges and developed area (100 feet or • it stores water in tiny more is ideal and required by law in some cases). How you can spaces between grains of sand • Reduce lawn and driveway areas and replace IMPROVE • it moves water toward a with low-growing ground covers, trees and shrubs. pond, river or ocean •Reduce or eliminate the use of pesticides, her- WATER QUALITY bicides or fertilizers on lawns and gardens in favor of organic products such as compost and in your watershed insect control methods. All the land between ridges of •Use non-phosphate detergents in the home and hills drains water toward a stream when washing cars outdoors. or pond. A watershed absorbs rain and snow and carries it via • Direct rain water from rooftops and driveways groundwater to surface water to an out-of-the-way depression in the lawn or ponds and streams. Excess fertil- gravel-filled trench where it can slowly seep into the ground. izer, septic runoff and other pol- lutants can be transported along • Avoid making ditches or paths that direct rain with the groundwater. water straight into a stream or waterbody. For Further Information Audubon Society of Rhode Island 949-5454 Watersheds and sub-watersheds RIDEM are often named for the main river Division of Water Resources that collects the water. 222-3166 USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service 828-1300 Audubon Society Your individual actions affect the of Rhode Island quality of water in nearby ponds USDA 12 Sanderson Road and streams. Cooperative Extension Offices Smithfield, RI 02917 1-800-448-1011 (401) 949-5454 Many thanks to the Maine Audubon Society for permission EDUCATION CONSERVATION ADVOCACY Printed on recycled paper. 5/00 to extract watershed information from The Water's Edge. The Water's Edge Incorporating buffer strips into garden de- Wildlife Habitat Many homes are located near streams, lakes, signs is one of the most effective ways to Landscape designs that include a buffer strip give wetlands and woodland pools. Human activities in protect water quality. Buffer strips homeowners the opportunity to choose plants that gardens and backyards can contaminate or de- are areas of vegetation, trees, provide ample food and cover for wildlife. In the grade these bodies of water. Causes of these shrubs and ground cover (other winter, evergreens are especially important as problems include: failing septic systems, the use than lawns) between places of cover for small animals and songbirds. Buffer of chemical fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides or human activity and water areas can serve as nurseries for young animals as weed killers on lawns and gardens, the use of resources. Roots of plants well as for animals passing from one area to phosphate detergents, and soil erosion. trap and hold soil, pre- another. Waterways are used by many species of venting excess erosion. wildlife as routes for travel. Buffer strips provide Solutions to these problems include changes in Plants and duff, the layer o f protection which will encourage animals to use the garden practices and landscape designs, and alter- loose organic matter on the for- est floor, act corridor when traveling to and from larger tracts of natives to the use of toxic or harmful products in as a filter to absorb and use some of the excess habitat. Wildlife corridors add opportunities for and around the home. nutrients carried by runoff. viewing animals in the backyard and add to the health and biodiversity of local wildlife popula- Not only can garden designs protect water quality, Lawns are not as efficient as buffer strips at using tions. but they can provide productive wildlife habitat. excess nutrients and preventing erosion. When Vegetation selected to produce abundant food homeowners attempt to maintain a picture perfect Wet areas and the duff layer of a buffer strip and cover is especially useful and attractive to lawn they often use large amounts of fertilizers, provide wildlife habitat for an interesting and wildlife when in the vicinity of a reliable water herbicides and pesticides. Some of these chemicals important group of animals, the insects. Addition- source. All animals need water and many species run off and contribute to water quality problems. A ally, certain insects, such as caddisflies, are indica- of wildlife do not stray far from water. mixture of clover, such as white dutch clover and tors of a biologically rich system and of clean grasses can end the need for synthetic nitrogen water. The nymphs of mayflies, damselflies, and fertilizers. The clover fixes the atmospheric nitrogen dragonflies forage on the bottom of pools, streams and it becomes available to the grass. To keep lawns and wetlands. These and other insects are among Water Quality healthy, grass should be at least 3 inches long. the first animals to be affected by contaminated The combined activities of a com- Additionally, grass cuttings should be left sediments. Since insects are an important link in munity have a cumulative impact on the lawn. They will decompose and the food chain, their on water quality. Runoff water release nitrogen to feed the grass. Two of death and con- that carries chemicals, excess the best ways to protect water quality are to tamination affect nutrients, bacteria and soil increase buffer strip size and reduce use of the lives of all results in water that is chemicals. other types of wild- hazardous to human life in the ecosystem. health and to wildlife. Nutrient accu- Gardening techniques can be used to eliminate Where insects are mulation accelerates the aging process of lakes, or limit the use of fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides. abundant and ponds and wetlands. This process, called eutrophi- Plants chosen for the yard that are native to Rhode diverse, other cation, normally occurs very slowly. Acceleration Island and are planted in their preferred soils with the forms of life will occurs when nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) right light and drainage will grow well without fertil- be present too. enter waterways in large quantities in a short izers. Plants chosen for their value as cover and food Salamanders, period of time. The initial result is excess growth can eliminate the need for pesticides by attracting frogs, birds of algae and other plants. Decomposing plants and birds and insects that prey on pest species. Mulch can and even algae cause an unpleasant odor, cloudy water, be used instead of herbicides to keep down weeds. mammals depend on insects for food. depletion of oxygen in the water, and the death of Searching for different types of insects and am- fish and other aquatic animals. phibians is just one more exciting and unique opportunity for wildlife observation.
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