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The main sources of nutrient impairments are over-fertilized agricultural lands, as well as urban lawns and gardens. Other sources include livestock, pet waste, municipal wastewater systems. Farmers apply nutrients in the form of chemical fertilizers, manure, and sludge. When fertilizers exceed plant needs, are left out in the open, or are applied just before it rains, nutrients can wash into our waterways over land or seep into groundwater.

Many backyard fertilizers for gardens or lawns contain nutrients. Just like in a rural setting, excess fertilizer that is not taken up by plants can seep into groundwater sources or be carried by stormwater over land to streams and rivers. Most dishwashing detergents are another source of nutrients that can be tracked back to the home. Finally, high concentrations of nutrients are also found in human and pet waste, which all too often contaminate our waters via leaking sewer lines or neglected pet waste.

These increased nutrient concentrations cause nuisance or toxic algae blooms in waterbodies. These blooms can ruin swimming and boating opportunities, create foul taste and odor in drinking water, and kill fish and aquatic life by removing oxygen from the water. High concentrations of nutrients must be filtered from our drinking water, since they can cause methemoglobinemia, a potentially fatal disease in infants, also known as blue baby syndrome.


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  • Adopt

    Are you a member of a group or organization in your community that would be interested in adopting this waterway? Contact us if you’re interested in learning more about stream adoption.

    Learn more about adopting a stream

  • Limit Fertilizer

    Fertilizers, pesticides and other pollutants can attach themselves to soil particles and find their way to your creek.

    Resources include:

  • Allow for natural growth near waterways

    If you live or work next to a waterway, leave a 35′ to 100′ no mow zone on its banks. Allow natural and native plant growth in this buffer area or plant native trees, bushes, and groundcover. This vegetation can filter pollutants before they reach your waterway and provide other water quality benefits that far exceed those of a mowed lawn. Native plants and grasses require less watering and fertilizer and also provide important habitat for native species of wildlife.

    Resources include:

  • Plant a rain garden

    Rain gardens can filter and infiltrate stormwater that flows across your yard.

    Resources include:

  • Employ agricultural best management practices.

    Excluding farm animals from this waterway and providing them with alternative sources of water can prevent animals from trampling streamside vegetation and defecating in the waterway.

    Resources include:

  • Support public funding of water treatment plants and sewer infrastructure.

    Water related infrastructure is expensive and obtaining funding for necessary sewer and water treatment improvements is often a challenge for communities. However, public dollars are critical to our water quality and public health. Support your community’s efforts to properly maintain it’s water related infrastructure.

    Resources include:

    • America’s Infrastructure Report Card – American Society of Civil Engineers
    • How Sewage Pollution Ends Up in Rivers – American Rivers
    • Greening Water Infrastructure – American Rivers
  • Remove unused dams.

    If you have an antiquated or unneeded dam on your property, contact the Cumberland River Compact to discuss the feasibility of removing it. Walk the stream and inventory the location of any dams or obstructions, and let the Compact know so we can add these to our database or potential removal projects.

    Resources include:

    • Dam Inventory, Removal and Stream Restoration – Cumberland River Compact
    • How Dams Damage Rivers and How Dams are Removed – American Rivers
  • Organize with others in your community. Make your voices heard and your votes count.

    Participate in community planning efforts and advocate for relevant measures that improve or protect water quality. Write to your elected official and let them know this is concern or invite them to speak about the impairment with your home-owners association. When elections come up, vote for candidates who will address the problem and hold them accountable to their promises. Support local watershed / environmental associations.

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  • Spread the word.

    Do your neighbors, family, or roommates know about the problem? Now that you know how to be an effective steward, enlist the help of others in your neighborhood. Share iCreek or resources within it with your neighbors and encourage them to join the effort to protect your creek.