Get Out of the Gutter: Sweep, Don’t Blow! Keep leaves and grass clippings out of our storm drains

LeavesInDrainFalling leaves and grass clippings that find their way into our storm drain system can be a menace to our community by plugging our storm drains, flooding our roads and harming our water sources. This type of debris in our storm drain system, which flows unchecked out into our oceans and rivers, also poses a threat to the health and sustainability of aquatic wildlife and our community!

How do leaves and clippings cause a threat to aquatic and public health?

Decomposing leaves and grass clippings have high levels of nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, which cause unwanted and uncontrolled growth of algae and aquatic weeds in waterways.

Have you ever seen a “green algae bloom “ or an unsightly “green scum” on a lake or waterway?

That’s a sign of increased algae growth. Too much algae growth is harmful to a water system because it blocks the sunlight and prevents other plants from growing.  Additionally, when it dies and decays, it takes needed oxygen away from fish and other marine wildlife, compromising the aquatic ecosystem, which in turn can upset the balance of all ecosystems. The best way to guarantee to reduce harmful algae blooms is to limit the amount of leaves and grass clippings that get into our waterways.

Here are some other simple tips to help keep leaves, clippings, and other harmful  debris out of the gutter:


Distributing grass clippings around your lawn and garden provides free fertilizer to your landscape.  Leaving your grass clippings on the landscape can reduce your lawn’s annual fertilizer needs as clippings are about 90% water, and decompose quickly. Reducing the need for chemical fertilizers and pesticide use contributes to minimizing the toxins that get into our storm drain system and reduces water pollution.

•Set your lawn mower to mulch and mow high

Taller grass retains moisture and captures grass clippings. Mow often enough that grass clippings are shorter than the remaining lawn and can be trapped on your lawn. If you choose to collect grass clips (and leaves), collect them in your yard waste bin  for pickup!


Compost leaves on your landscape away from storm drains, wetlands and streams.  For information on how to compost, visit, and Search “Compost”) and watch Sustainable Ventura’s Video:

•Reduce soil erosion in your landscape with bioswales and native gardens

Rain water can wash bare soil away, creating erosion and pollution. Planting a water wise native or Ocean Friendly Garden, which limits rain water runoff  and encourages the slowing, spreading, and sinking of water into a permeable landscape where the ground serves as a natural filter.  Find out more by watching Sustainable Ventura’s segments on lawns and gardens, CLICK HERE.

-Maryann Ridini Spencer for SustainableVentura.TV


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