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Who are the Partners for Healthy Watersheds?

Partners for Healthy Watersheds came together to help educate consumers about watershed health and management practices. The group is made up of representatives from multiple farming groups, including American Dairy Association North East, New York Animal Agriculture Coalition, Northeast Dairy Producers Association and the New York Farm Bureau. Learn More

What is a watershed?

A watershed is an area of land that catches rain or snow and then drains into a single body of water via streams, rivers or marshes. View the Owasco watershed below.

Owasco Lake Watershed Map

What is Phosphorus?

Phosphorus is a nutrient that plants need for healthy growth. It naturally occurs in healthy land and aquatic ecosystems, but also comes from many residential, commercial and agricultural sources. Phosphorus can become a problem in aquatic environments because if too much is present, the nutrient can contribute to algal blooms.

What are the sources of phosphorus?

There are many potential sources of this nutrient that need to be kept away from the lake. These include pet waste, failing septic systems, lawn clippings, dead leaves, fertilizers, manure and even some car and boat wash products. When handling potential sources of this nutrient, it is important to keep them away from streams, ditches and the lake itself.

Common Sources of Phosphorus

Why should phosphorus be kept out of the lake?

Phosphorus is the limiting factor for plant growth, and it is believed that high levels of the nutrient could contribute to algal blooms. However, blooms have occurred in Owasco Lake even while phosphorus remained within acceptable levels, according to DEC representatives and Cayuga County, suggesting that more research needs to be done to understand the nutrient’s role in bloom formation.

What are cover crops and how do they help the environment?

Cover crops are planted after the summer harvest and then left in place throughout the winter. By tying up nutrients in the fields, cover crops help keep soil and nutrients in place during heavy snow melts and wet spring conditions.

I want to help protect the watershed. What can I do?

There are many ways to contribute to a healthy watershed. Avoid spraying pesticides and spreading fertilizers near the water, and clean up dead leaves and grass clippings. You can also help the ground absorb nutrients from runoff by planting vegetated filter strips (also known as buffer strips) along stream banks and shorelines.

I don’t live in the watershed. Can I still help?

Even if you live far from water sources, you can help by picking up after yourself and your pet when within the watershed. Boaters in Owasco Lake should use boat washes that are free of phosphorus and be aware of other potential nutrient sources they may bring into the watershed.