Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Clean Yard, Clean Lake

While septic systems are the major contributor to water pollution in this area, we humanure machines also have dogs that contribute in a more distributed fashion. Normally considered an urban problem due to runoff often being quickly shunted to stormwater drains rather than directed onto the landscape for infiltration, it also warrants attention in suburban settings with less impervious surface.

Taking the Maryland fertilizer law single application limit for lawns as a reference point, a dog contributes about 0.75 pounds per day, so every 25 days or so will drop enough manure to exceed the 1,000 square feet nitrogen and phosphorus limits in the fertilizer law. Nobody fertilizes that frequently, so leaving dog waste to decompose in one's yard violates the principle of the fertilizer law (aside from the fact that it makes a mess out of your lawn). However, when a person walks their dog instead of leaving it in a yard all the time, a lot of their pet's droppings get distributed over an area much greater than 1,000 square feet, so it's probably not excessive and needn't be collected, except in urban areas, or where it is clearly destined to be washed into a storm drain, or when required by rules.

If the fertilizer law is valid, nowhere is it more so than in the critical area, to include around inland lakes and streams. I traced out a line 1,000 feet from Lake Lariat on a topographic map and found that my house is inside that self-imposed buffer. Fortunately, I already collect and compost my dog's waste. Using that compost in a project that can demonstrate its efficacy is going to be one way that I gradually accustom others in my area to the idea of humanure compost. I think the project will be a conservation landscape in front of my house.

Part of my campaign could be spent encouraging dog owners in the target area to pick up the dog shit in their yards, especially from November 15th to March 1st when no fertilization of lawns is allowed. Dog poop will tend to wash into runoff more during those months because the ground is less pervious due to freezing.

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