In urban areas throughout Minnesota, when it rains, it literally pours chemical runoff into our lakes and rivers. As we douse our lawns and plants throughout the summer days with fertilizers and weed sprays, we create a daunting build-up of phosphorus and nitrogen. Autumn rains drain fallen leaves and plant clippings into our beloved bodies of water, and smelly, unsafe algae and weed build-up ensues.
But a solution is proven. Two years ago, University of Minnesota researchers concluded that phosphorous and nitrogen buildup in lakes and rivers is reduced by 30 percent when we sweep our street gutters on a weekly basis.
InCommons and Freshwater Society recently encouraged the community to offer additional solutions as well, with the first-ever Work for Water Neighborhood Challenge.
The three winning entrants are:
The Raymond Park Boys and Girls Club Project in Benton County. More than 60 students engaged in several activities to help prevent pollution in area ponds and in the Mississippi River, including keeping plant residue on the fields and playgrounds of the facility and out of the parking lot, and gathering leaves to be mulched, composted and bagged and used in the club's large garden. Participants also joined in discussions and brainstorming on how they could bring their ideas into their own neighborhoods to help prevent water pollution.
Team Up to Clean Up Water in Apple Valley. The fourth graders at Cedar Park Elementary School have been educating the entire school body, as well as their neighbors, about phosphorus run-off. They developed fliers, spoke to each classroom, and created a podcast for fellow students and parents. The students also held a leaf drop-off site at Cedar Park, teaming up with Gertens to compost the leaves. Energized by their efforts, the students will create a short educational video on their work that will be aired on the district's cable television station.
Blaine Leaf Rake in Blaine. The youth of Christ Lutheran Church put their faith into action by raising awareness about the importance of cleaning up leaves. About 300 students and parents gathered on a single day last month to rake up neighborhood yards and streets and a City of Blaine park, mark storm sewer drains, and distribute "Community Clean-Ups for Water Quality" door-hangers.
Congratulations to the winners, who each will receive a $500 grant to continue their work. Two entries were chosen from around the state. A third idea was chosen from entries from Central Minnesota, made possible through a partnership with the Initiative Foundation. Due to only one entry meeting the criteria in Central Minnesota, the fourth $500 award will be offered in an upcoming challenge in Spring 2012. To see a full listing of this challenge's entrants and their ideas, visit the Work for Water challenge page.