‘Rake your curb!’: The unusual request from the Clean Lakes Alliance to Madison homeowners

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MADISON, Wis.– There’s a popular idea that it takes 21 days to form a habit; that’s even harder when that habit is something you only do a handful of times a year.

“It’s weird to say, ‘Rake the curb in front of your house,'” said Adam Sodersten, Communications Director for the Clean Lakes Alliance. “But that’s what we really need people to do.”

Here’s why: Leaves are rich in phosphorus. When water runs through a leaf, it takes that phosphorus with it, like a teabag. Then, once the water drains into Madison’s storm sewers, the damage is done. It’s headed directly into the lakes.

“We’re in essence fertilizing the lakes with the bad stuff from the leaves,” Sodersten explained.

The good news: There’s an easy fix.

Although phosphorus is a fuel for bad bacteria in the lakes, it’s a great fertilizer for your lawn.

While the weather is warmer and dryer this week, Sodersten hopes Madison-area homeowners will try to form a new fall habit and rake leaves from the street onto their lawns or into bags.

“It’s just like recycling,” Sodersten said. “It was very unnatural to separate glass, metal, and newspapers 35 to 40 years ago. It’s going to be the same with leaves, but hopefully in a shorter amount of time. It’s going to be natural to rake the leaves out of the street in front of your house.”

READ MORE: How to help keep the community & Madison-area lakes clean from home

According to Sodersten and the Clean Lakes Alliance, we won’t see the effects of leaves going into the lakes until next summer, but by then, there’s nothing we will be able to do to reverse the damage. Blue-green algae will begin to appear and beaches will have to close.

To learn more about how leaves can impact Madison’s lakes and what you can do to help, click here.