Outer Cape Water Quality

Ground Water and Hydrophilic Chemicals

Outer Cape Water Quality Initiative: How do grass and natural lawns affect water quality?

Pesticides seem an easy target, but they really direct us to a much larger picture.

Grass lawns don't need to be stigmatized as wrong or bad but perhaps a new balance can be considered between grass lawns and natural (indigenous vegetation) lawns. The Outer Cape's thin soil conditions are brutal, acid and nutrient poor. The natural indigenous vegetation, like the residents, seem to thrive on the weather abuse.

Grass lawns are usually seeded on top of six to eight inches of loam or topsoil. Fertilizers are added to stimulate growth and all sorts of seeds will be successful there. The leaves will be enriched, sending out chemical calling cards to insects. To reduce unwanted "weeds" herbicides may be used. To discourage insects, pesticides may be used. Frequent watering, additional fertilizers and continued use of pesticides and weed killer may be needed. Indigenous animals will find no familiar food or habitat there.

Natural (Indigenous) lawns can be seeded with conservation mix over an inch or two of indigenous compost (obtained free from local transfer stations). We usually rake the compost in a little, seed and then add a once inch layer of mulch (also free from transfer stations) to mimic natural soil profiles.

When transfer stations chip brush, branches and leaves, bacteria and microorganisms begin the decomposition process. The new material can be used as mulch and the dark final product can be used as compost. The benefit of using natural decomposition products is that they already have indigenous pH and nutrient content and host a full range of decomposers that keep on working. Keep the small chips and roots in the natural mix to protect natural diversity in the insect/decomposer community. This mix also welcomes indigenous volunteer seeds and will evolve naturally.

The benefits of natural systems include: creation of habitat for indigenous animals; natural erosion control (all grass creates runoff); naturally filters out sediment and excess nutrients with root/leaf stem systems; never needs mowing; never needs watering (except for the first growing season; never needs fertilizer; never needs pesticides; never needs herbicides. The benefits of natural lawn systems for our drinking water quality include: water conservation; pesticide free, herbicide free and fertilizer free. 


Ground Water and Hydrophilic Chemicals


If you have an interest in more detailed educational information and links regarding this topic, we have just published the booklet "Ground Water and Hydrophilic Chemicals". 

Download: Ground Water and Hydrophilic Chemicals

Safe Harbor Environmental Advocacy Initiative

This water quality initiative advocates the protection of drinking water resources on the Outer Cape. We support educational programs that develop awareness of our aquifer, which is recharged through ground water infiltration. We also encourage collaborative local partnerships, between town boards and stakeholder groups and between Outer Cape communities, to investigate the social changes needed to reduce chemical infiltration and improve our ground water recharge systems. The following discussion points outline the basic goals of the initiative. 1. Drinking water sourced from areas where household waste is infiltrated should be identified as an areas for improvement, through education. 2. Drinking water sourced from areas where lawn and garden chemicals are infiltrated should be identified as areas for improvement, through education. 3. Reducing infiltration of known carcinogens. 4. Reducing infiltration of non-degradable pesticides. 5. Reducing infiltration of biocide cleaners. 6. Reducing infiltration of growth hormones. 7. Reducing infiltration of antibiotics. 8. Reducing infiltration of petrochemicals. 9. Reducing infiltration of nitrogen and phosphorus. 10. Developing reliable, full spectrum monitoring programs. 11. Developing alternative choices for household chemical products. 12. Developing retailer support for chemical product alternatives. 13. Reducing storm water runoff with effective ground water infiltration systems.

We encourage leaders in Outer Cape Towns to discuss and support these basic goals. Discussions should include concerned residents and the capable contributors found on Planning Boards, Boards of Health and Conservation Commissions. Protecting our drinking water resources from chemical infiltration is a common goal that can unite local groups and create regional partnerships.

We support regional environmental initiatives. These initiatives work to conserve financial resources as well as natural resources. Local and regional partnerships contribute to successful initiatives by more effectively participating in stakeholder interaction and education.

Safe Harbor, 2007 For more information contact Gordon Peabody at 508-237-3724, or gordonsafeharbor@yahoo.com