What You Can Do


Practically everything we do on land impacts a nearby stream. It is up to property owners to reduce these impacts as much as possible in order to ensure our streams remain healthy and support life. Even if you don’t live right next to a stream, you still have an impact!

How our lawns impact streams

Fertilize only when it is absolutely necessary and avoid using fertilizer with Phosphorus/phosphates. The best way to know for sure if your lawn or garden needs fertilizers, as well as what type of fertilizer, is to have your soil tested using a testing kit or by taking a sample to the local UT Extension office. Work with Harpeth Conservancy, the lead organization in Tennessee on the national problem of nutrient pollution, and how to reduce your nutrient inputs.

Avoid using pesticides and herbicides, which end up getting washed into nearby streams. These chemicals contaminate water and are harmful to not only wildlife but can be harmful to humans too.
If you have to use an herbicide, follow application directions. Never apply them directly before a rainfall.

Never put your grass clippings or yard scraps in a stream or drainage ditch. Keep ditches clear of all debris, even if they are natural.

When you mow or weed-eat, be sure to leave a buffer between the stream bank and your property. A riparian buffer is a corridor separating the stream from adjacent land and is home to wildflowers, grasses, shrubs, and trees. These plants help protect both your property and the stream itself from the effects of erosion, filter nutrients from stormwater and serve as a habitat for wildlife

Take action

Our partners have wonderful tips on how to maintain your yard and improve nearby stream conditions. 

Home Garden Tips

The things we do around the house every day can affect our rivers and streams —the very water we drink. Work with Harpeth Conservancy, the lead organization in Tennessee, to become “RiverSmart” and learn how to address the problem of nutrient pollution, and how to reduce your nutrient inputs to avoid toxic algal blooms in the local waterway where you, your pets and kids like to play.

Come Post Your Compost!

Keep wasted food scraps out of the landfills by turning it into a natural and nutrient-rich fertilizer for your yard. Help the Tennessee Environmental Council create a community of composters in Tennessee!

Build a rain garden

Rain gardens are easy to create and can reduce lawn maintenance, increase in beneficial insects, attract pollinators and—not to mention—they look pretty cool! Get all the DIY tips on creating your own rain garden courtesy of Cumberland River Compact.

Lawns with streams

Property owners with rivers and waterways have a greater responsibility to be water stewards. Tips like not mowing next to a stream are crucial in helping to maintain the much-needed riparian zone (the vegetation that grows next to streams). Riparian areas are habitats of plants and trees, for wildlife, and people, and are specialized lands that keep our waters clean and our stream banks stabilized. Keeping these areas healthy and functional are good for everyone, including homeowners.

For resources on maintaining a healthy riparian zone, visit RCWA’s resources page.

The Dead Zone

Fertilizer in the form of phosphorus is great for plant growth but when it runs off into nearby streams and lakes encourages algae growth that can use up the oxygen and choke out the living creatures. The culmination of thousands of streams which drain to the Gulf of Mexico contributes to the ever-growing “dead zone” off the coast of Louisiana, where nothing can live.