Summer is a great time to think about how you can do something for cleaner rivers and lakes with a few simple, sustainable changes to your garden.

Rainwater (the water that rains on cities and flows into a gully) has a huge impact on how clean a river or lake can be. Our urban drainage system directs rainwater from lawns, roads and sidewalks to rivers, lakes and ponds in the area. If only rainwater (rainwater) flows into the drainage system, our river remains relatively clean. The challenge arises when this rainwater picks up rubbish, pet litter, fertilizers, grass clippings, or other water pollutants on its way to the rainwater drain.

Before your city was a thriving community with thousands of houses and miles of cobbled streets, most of the rain seeped into the ground. Very little would drain into our rivers and lakes. But today, most of the rain in the city ends up in the Straight and Cannon Rivers. This increased runoff can lead to more pollution entering the river and more erosion on river banks and creek banks and the flow going from a trickle to a gush.

One way to keep our rivers and lakes cleaner is to trap more rain in your yard. Three easy ways to do this are by installing a rain barrel, planting a rain garden, or planting a plot of land with native plants on your property.

A rain barrel catches the rain from your downpipe and lets you use it for garden plants later. You can buy a rain barrel from most gardening and gardening stores. A rain garden is a specialized garden designed to catch, hold, and drain rainwater from impermeable surfaces around your property.

If none of these options are right for your garden, consider increasing the number of native plants in your garden as well. Deeply rooted prairie plants such as the large blue stem, the small blue stem and the compass plant trap the runoff and allow it to soak into the ground better than turf grass. These prairie plants are attractive, perennial (easy to care for) and drought resistant.

Another way to keep pollutants out of our rivers and lakes is to clean up the rain drain (or catch basin) near your home. Remember that even leaves and clippings can create a pollution problem if too many leaves or clippings get into the river.

It only takes a few minutes to sweep up any bedding or plant material around the gully so that “only rain flows into the gully”.

Check with your city to see if you can register to “adopt” your local catch basin.

If we all do something, we can all do a lot for cleaner water!

Kevin Strauss is the community engagement coordinator at Clean River Partners (formerly Cannon River Watershed Partnership). Reach him at [email protected]