As the area surrounding the Chetek Chain of Lakes continues to get developed and paved, the amount of land available to absorb rainwater is eliminated. During times of rain, the water drains off the paved areas, through the shores of the chain and then the runoff goes directly into the lakes. This runoff often contains contaminants that are unhealthy for the Chetek Chains. Today, there is an even smaller amount of land to absorb this runoff and therefore is beginning to further contaminate the chain of lakes. There are a few different solutions to slow and clean the runoff before it runs into the lakes including rain gardens and lake buffers.
A rain garden is a garden that is built to absorb rainfall and stormwater runoff. It is designed to look like an attractive garden and support the local habitat. Plants with deep fibrous roots tend to work best because they can better clean and filter the water. The gardens are located between a spot of high runoff and a protected area. As the rainwater enters the garden it is cleaned, filtered and slowed to prevent erosion as well as any contaminants from proceeding through. These gardens become even more important as development continues and eliminates lands natural ability to absorb water. They are easy to create on your own land or area that you maintain near the Chetek Chain of Lakes. Here is a link from the WI DNR to get you started http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/ShorelandZoning/documents/rgmanual.pdf
Lake buffers, or shoreline “lakescaping”, is a more natural solution to prevent runoff. Native vegetation along the shoreline can act as a buffer and will also help prevent harmful runoff from entering our lakes. This buffer zone can also help improve the habitats of the wildlife that call the Chetek Chain of Lakes, their home. The lake buffer is best to be 50 feet from the edge of the water to the landward side. However, even as little as just 10 feet can have a significant benefit to the quality of water on the Chetek Chain. Inside these buffer zones, make sure to have native plants including bushes and shrubs with deep roots. Try to avoid using rock as there is limited natural absorption and this can actually increase the rate of contamination versus grass. The larger the buffer zone the smaller the chance of a significant algae bloom. Most of the time a natural lake buffer already exists and it is important to simply maintain it instead of removing it. Here are two links to WI DNR publications to further explain the buffer zone and its importance, http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/ShorelandZoning/documents/watersedge.pdf and http://weigogreener.org/uploads/media/SHORELAND_CHKLST_03.pdf At the end of the day, lakeshore landscaping comes down to balancing what is best for the natural habitat and human comfort. Having a sandy beach certainly makes for more enjoyable swimming, but the “clean” look will negatively impact the lake and shore habitat because the native plants that were removed will not be able to clean and filter runoff. Instead of installing a beach that runs the entire shoreline, reduce its size to only 30%-40% and install a rain garden to help filter the runoff from rain. When clearing trees for a view, look at the same ratio and leave a few to help with heathy vegetation growth in the water. These small changes can help reduce erosion and also clean runoff. Again, it’s not about having to entirely change the landscape on your lakefront property, but instead making minor concessions to make significant changes to the Chetek Chain of Lakes!
Diversion and Infiltration
How you manage your property has a direct effect on the health of the Chetek Lakes. Runoff from waterfront property can carry harmful pollutants such as sediment and phosphorus to the lake. It is also important to remember that many city drainage systems flow into lakes, so even if you don’t own lakefront property runoff from your property may still impact the lakes. There are a few different solutions, such as diversion and infiltration, to prevent runoff from entering the lakes.
There are a number of different techniques used to divert runoff. One such technique is the use of grading. Grading involves sloping the land away from the lake. Grading should be used around driveways, sidewalks, and other non-porous surfaces. You can also use berms to direct water to an infiltration practice. Drain tiles can also be used to disperse water. For example, you can attach a drain tile to rain gutter downspouts to release the water underground. There are a number of additional diversion techniques. These techniques, along with additional information regarding each diversion practice, can be found here.
Infiltration practices hold runoff water in a flat area and allow water to soak into the soil. These practices should not be used in areas with more than 30% clay or 40% clay and silt. One way to use infiltration practices is to build a rack infiltration trench. Rock infiltration trenches are a great way to capture the runoff from a rooftop or parking area. The size of the trenches depends generally depends on the amount of water to be captured and rate of infiltration. Another infiltration practice is a rock infiltration pit. This is very similar to a rock infiltration trench, but the pit is much larger and is designed to fit in a specified area. It is important not to construct a pit deeper than 5 feet because the soil beneath the pit will drain more slowly. Another infiltration practice is constructing a rain garden. For more information on rain gardens visit our rain gardens page. Additional information regarding runoff infiltration can be found here. If we manage our property well by using these techniques, it is possible to significantly reduce the amount of runoff and contaminants entering Chetek’s Lakes. Again, these are practices that can be used even if you don’t have waterfront property. These diversion and infiltration practices offer a unique opportunity for each individual property owner in the community to make a difference.