GUEST OPINION: Take steps at home to protect our water

By MAGGIE SULLIVAN, guest columnist

Summer is here and the water is beckoning.

Do you prefer kayaking on Salt Creek, canoeing on Yellowwood Lake, wading in Strahl Creek or swimming in Sweetwater Lake? Recent studies show that the top water quality threats are sediment, nutrients and bacteria.

Here are four ways you can take action at home to protect the lakes and streams where you recreate.

Use less fertilizer on your lawn, garden or crops.

When too much fertilizer is applied, the excess is washed into streams and lakes causing harmful algal blooms. Soil tests can help you determine how much fertilizer you really need.

Cover bare soil before it can be washed into a nearby stream. Straw, leaves and bark mulch are all good options for protecting the soil while plants are getting established. Consider planting a cover crop in the fall to stabilize the soil in your garden or field after you have harvested the summer crop.

Protect streams by leaving a wide strip of tall vegetation along the stream bank. Grasses, shrubs, wildflowers and trees can all help by stabilizing the bank with their roots and by filtering runoff before it reaches the stream. Trees have the added benefit of shade, which lowers the water temperature and increases the amount of dissolved oxygen available to fish.

Last, but not least, maintain your septic system. This means pumping your septic tank every three to five years and being careful about what goes down your drain every day.

Maggie Sullivan’s son Oliver Emigh wades in a creek. This week Sullivan writes about what steps you can take to protect water including creeks such as this one.

Limit the use of your garbage disposal and avoid pouring fats, grease, solids and harsh chemicals down the drain. Avoid bleach and antibacterial products that could kill the good bacteria in your septic system. In the bathroom, make sure no wipes, sanitary napkins, tampons or other trash goes down your toilet. Even if it says “flushable,” keep it out of your septic system. A healthy septic system will prevent nutrients and bacteria from being released into nearby streams and lakes.

Want to learn more about how to protect our waterways?

Join Friends of Lake Monroe and the Leagues of Women Voters of Brown County and Bloomington-Monroe County for a community forum on Thursday June 9, from 6:45 to 8:30 p.m. at the Brown County Public Library, 205 Locust Lane.

Another option is to attend a virtual session over Zoom on June 15. Visit for more information.

Please join us to show your support for water quality and share your ideas of how we can work together to protect and improve our lakes and streams.

Maggie Sullivan is the watershed coordinator for Friends of Lake Monroe. She is an experienced community organizer who holds a degree in agricultural engineering from Purdue University. Sullivan can be reached at 812-558-0217 or [email protected]