Fall Leaves & Healthy Streams

Fall Leaves & Healthy Streams

It's one thing to clean up the leaves in your yard. It's entirely much more awesome to clean up the watershed at the very same time.

Fall leaves, a pollution problem?

With each season, there are unique pollution sources requiring unique solutions.

Every time it rains or snows, our streets and sidewalks behave like streams, carrying anything in its path to local lakes and rivers via storm drains and ditches - including excess leaves! 

💧Fall Leaves & Healthy Streams

With the onset of autumn, many of us get to enjoy the spectacular shades of reds, oranges and yellows across the Northland and in our own backyards. Once these leaves drop, it is our duty to ensure their proper collection and disposal to avoid polluting local lakes and streams.

It may come as a surprise, but too many fallen leaves in the water can actually be very harmful to wildlife and the quality of our water.

Fall leaves pile along a street curb until they meet a storm drain.

Before the land was covered in roads, buildings and concrete, fallen leaves would collect on the forest floor as beneficial leaf-litter. Even in nature, only a small fraction of leaves would naturally drop straight into the creeks. 

Today, many leaves end up falling onto roads, sidewalks and in our backyards. These leaves become a stormwater pollution problem if they aren’t properly collected and/or disposed of. 

Especially when leaves pile along the street curb, large amounts enter streams through the storm drain. In addition to polluting water, storm drains clogged with leaves can cause back-ups and flooding.

💧How do leaves harm water quality if they’re “natural”?

Although natural, fall leaves can have a negative impact on water quality when they break down, or decompose in the water over time. This process takes oxygen away from fish and other aquatic creatures, which need dissolved oxygen to breathe! 

Leaves also contain organic compounds and nutrients that aren't supposed to be in the water, especially in large amounts. Come summertime, these nutrients fuel toxic algae blooms, and make our waterways dark and murky. Fall leaves could even be the reason behind summer beach closures!

💧How can I help prevent this pollution problem?

Thankfully, there are easy steps you can take at home to protect your lakes and streams from leaf pollution. 

  • Sweep fallen leaves out of the street & storm drains. By removing leaves from the street, you prevent fallen leaves from entering and clogging up storm drains. This will not only prevent street flooding, but you stop leaves from entering waterways at the source. 
  • Always collect & dispose of leaves properly. Never rake or blow leaves into the street! 
  • Follow these great leaf disposal tips: