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By: Ministry of the Environment

Posted on: May 26, 08

Water is possibly the most important resource in the 21st century, but excess phosphorus in many of our biggest and best supplies – our lakes – is a common problem. It enters our water from a variety of sources – our homes, our farms and our communities.

Phosphorus is actually a nutrient, but too much of it can harm lake water because it causes excessive plant growth. When this growth decays, it consumes oxygen that fish need to live. Excessive plant growth also interferes with recreational activities that many people enjoy during the summer, such as swimming, fishing and boating.

Environmentalists, communities, farmers, industries, scientists and individuals are trying to reduce how much phosphorus gets into our water as part of a new government-led initiative to protect Lake Simcoe.

You can help too. Here are five simple steps you can take to reduce your phosphorus-footprint:

1. Check your septic tank. Septic systems around the shoreline of Lake Simcoe contribute an estimated six per cent of the total phosphorus loading. Look after your septic system and make sure it is functioning properly.

2. Say no to fertilizer. Lawn fertilizers containing phosphorus can wash into the lake, especially if you use too much. Phosphates are carried into surface waters with storm runoff, with melting snow and from soil erosion. If you must, use phosphorus-free fertilizer.

3. Boat responsibly.  The bigger the wave, the bigger the impact it will have on shoreline erosion. Erosion releases phosphorus, so slow down and reduce your wake around shorelines.

4. Stoop and scoop that poop. Your pet’s waste contains phosphorus and other contaminants. When it rains, run off can push animal waste into sewers and rivers that drain into lakes. So, pick up after your dog!

5. Plant a tree. Trees and shrubs act as natural filters to stormwater runoff and soil erosion, which contain phosphorus. Every tree near the water helps.

If we all adopt these simple steps, together, we can significantly reduce our phosphorus contributions and help improve the health and water quality of our lakes.

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