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Municipal Applications

What does it take to achieve a lush lawn? A perfectly manicured ballpark? A rolling green golf course? Many times it takes chemicals. Pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers are used in these settings to:

  • control weeds
  • protect wood structures
  • eliminate undesirable pests
  • maintain gardens, lawns, and decorative landscapes

Professionals are often responsible for chemical application on golf courses or parks, but homeowners are a different story. They’re not usually trained in chemical application and tend to use more than is necessary. When too much of a chemical is applied, it is more likely that some will run off and end up polluting a waterway.

Because these chemicals are part of the non-point source pollution problem, it’s difficult to tell what percentage of the chemical pollution problem comes from farms and what percentage traces back to urban households. While agriculture often gets the blame, studies show that roughly 27% of all pesticide use in the U.S is in urban areas. Since the yard around their house is much smaller than the average farm field, most homeowners probably don’t notice an increase in cost if they use too much of a chemical. But if a farmer overapplied just an ounce of fertilizer or pesticide on every acre, it would end up costing thousands of dollars. So they carefully calculate the right amounts to apply in order to maximize their profit.

What can be done to reduce urban chemical pollution?

  • Education efforts can be made to teach homeowners about proper use and disposal of commonly used chemicals.
  • Lawn care suppliers can offer homeowners nontoxic alternatives.
  • Homeowners can hire lawn care companies that are certified in chemical application.
  • Buffer zones can be planted around creeks, streams and rivers to filter runoff.
  • Storm sewer runoff could be routed through a wastewater reclamation plant.

Should the cost be shouldered by the communities that create the pollution, or the communities downstream who must treat the water before they can use it?



Explore More: Water Quality
Copyright 2004, Iowa Public Television
The Explore More project is supported by funds from the
Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust
and the USDE Star Schools Program.