Blog

Leaf Management

Trees are good, right?

Statewide phosphorus reduction credits for leaf collection

Urban trees provide many benefits to our communities. They help us save energy, reduce noise, and improve air quality. Trees are aesthetically pleasing, can increase property value, and provide natural homes for insects, birds, and other wildlife. Trees are also an important part of the earth’s water cycle. Transpiration from plants and trees is released into the atmosphere, and later becomes precipitation. The rain and snow return valuable moisture to our crops and forests, and the cycle continues.

However, trees can cause problems for our lakes if the leaves that fall from them each autumn are not regularly removed from streets and parking lots. When leaves collect on streets, they create a phosphorus-rich “tea” whenever it rains. The rain water passes through the leaf litter, and allows phosphorus to drain from the leaves. The leaf tea washes into storm drains and flows directly into our lakes, causing water quality to deteriorate.

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FOLKS Leaf Vacuum

Volunteers use leaf vacuums to protect Lake Kegonsa

A partnership toward leaf management and lake health in the Yahara River Watershed

Clean Lakes Alliance is excited to partner with the Friends of Lake Kegonsa Society (FOLKS) for one of our 2018 Clean Lakes Grants. FOLKS is a non-profit organization working to protect the environment and recreation of Lake Kegonsa and its surroundings.

Leaf management in the Yahara River Watershed is an important step toward creating healthy lakes. By following effective leaf practices, we can reduce the amount of phosphorus reaching our waters. Phosphorus is a naturally occurring element found in leaves, dirt, manure, and other organic matter and is the root cause of water quality problems in the region. When excessive amounts enter our lakes, phosphorus can fuel toxic cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) growth which can harm people and animals.

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Steambank stabilization, DeForest water quality

Urban Action: Village of DeForest Water Quality

In 2016, the Village of DeForest restored three sections of the Yahara River adjacent to the Upper Yahara River Trail for a total of 350 feet stabilized. The project addressed erosion concerns, established native plantings, and increased public access. DeForest also installed a new stormwater retention basin at the north industrial park. After a partnership with Clean Lakes Alliance for a leaf-free streets pilot program in 2015, DeForest took an adapted leaf outreach program village-wide in 2016. Keeping leaves out of the street will mean less phosphorus runoff to the Yahara River and ultimately our lakes.

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