Fertilizer helps us grow the food we eat and helps make our sports fields, golf courses, public spaces and home gardens lush and green. But, fertilizer use can pose a threat to our drinking water sources.

If it is not stored, handled and applied with care, fertilizer can enter and contaminate our drinking water supplies. Our drinking water comes from water under ground called groundwater or from water in lakes and rivers, called surface water.

We can all help to keep fertilizers out of our drinking water sources. Scroll down to see 10 ways or see the fact sheet. Let's take care with fertilizers around our homes and cottages.

The Quinte Region Source Protection Plan sets  out nine policies to address the threat  from commercial fertilizer use in agriculture and on recreational, institutional and industrial properties.
drinking water
Fertilizers contain nutrients that plants need to grow.  If soil does not contain enough nutrients to grow healthy plants then fertilizers may be added.  Fertilizer comes from plant and animal sources (organic) or from chemicals (inorganic). 

Most fertilizers contain nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus can get into our water when fertilizer-laden runoff, leaching, leaks or spills occur. This can contaminate drinking water sources and threaten our health.

High nitrate levels in groundwater sources may lead to Blue Baby Syndrome in infants. Runoff rich in nutrients can lead to algae blooms in surface water that can produce toxins harmful to people and animals. Manure fertilizers can get into drinking water wells and surface water supplies from improper field application, spills and weather events. Manure fertilizers may contain bacteria and viruses with the potential to cause serious illness if they get into untreated or improperly treated drinking water.

Policies in the Quinte Region Source Protection Plan are designed to help keep fertilizer and other pollutants out of our drinking water sources. See how the threat is being addressed.
      Around your home and cottage:
  1. Grow Native Plants: Most nurseries have a good selection or contact local specialty growers. These plants are genetically ready to thrive in our local climate and soils. This means less need for fertilizer and watering; and less chance of harmful nutrient-laden runoff.
  2. Set your mower higher: Taller grass is stronger grass with deeper roots. Less fertilizer and less water will be needed.
  3. Mulch: Plants contain nutrients. Mulching grass clippings means less fertilizer will be needed. Mulching leaves and other plant materials adds nutrients and reduces the need for fertilizer and watering.
  4. Know how much is needed and calculate carefully: Read and follow labels for the correct amount of product to use. Over fertilizing can damage plants and lawns. Excess fertilizer can be washed away by rain and into our surface and groundwater supplies; impacting them.
  5. Consider local conditions: Knowing local soil conditions can help you calculate fertilizer needs more accurately. Where possible, design a yard with small berms and swales to help keep runoff on the property. When you retain water on the property, less fertilizer is washed off into local waterways. Know the location of all wells and do not fertilize near them.
  6. Apply carefully: Follow directions on product labels. Take care to apply fertilizers on target. Careless sprinkling or broadcasting means fertilizer can end up in our water sources. Do not fertilize near drainpipes as fertilizer may be easily washed away. Avoid wells and water bodies.
  7. Store carefully: Stow fertilizers in a dry location away from water wells and waterways.
  8. Handle carefully: Exercise caution when handling to reduce accidental leaks and spills.
  9. Time your application carefully: Always check the weather first. Do not fertilize before a heavy rain because most of it will be washed away - money and nutrients down the drain.
  10. Tidy up: Sweep fertilizer that lands on hard surfaces back on to the yard. This helps to keep fertilizer out of our storm drains that connect to local streams, rivers and lakes which may be used as drinking water sources. 
See "Let's Keep Fertilizer Out of Drinking Water Sources" and other publications at
Find out more about drinking water threats and how they are addressed in the Source Protection Plan at  QuinteSourceWater.ca.