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NCSU Extension Publication:AG-763W
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Water Quality and Urban Nutrient Pollution

Coastal and urban water quality is a major concern of federal, state, and local governments.

Point and non-point source nutrient pollution of water bodies causes degradation or impairment of the water bodies for their intended uses, such as recreation, fishing, drinking water, irrigation, etc.

One reason for this is due to nutrients primarily nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) which can be involved in increasing the rate of algae and other aquatic plant growth (eutrophication) leading to impairment of intended uses.

Urban nutrient sources can include:

  • Urban fertilizer
  • Pet waste
  • Leaf litter and yard wastes

In areas where there is stormwater collection through a storm drain system, the potential for these to enter local surface water is high, especially in regions having frequent rain events.

Studies in Florida and Wisconsin found that decomposition of leaf and grass clippings determined that quick removal of street organic debris is needed to avoid the rapid loss of pollutants from the debris and that lawns and streets were the largest sources.

How to deal with these problems:

  • Blow or sweep fertilizer from impervious surfaces before rain carries it into the stormwater system.
  • Plant debris such as grass clippings or leaves should be removed (street sweeping) as soon as possible because water (rain) can easily and rapidly extract nutrients from the debris.
  • DO NOT blow leaves or grass clippings into the stormwater drains!!!