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WATERLINE - September, 2022

Ask Dr. Waterline: What about that fertilizer law?

Dear Dr. Waterline:

What progress has been made to ban phosphorus-containing fertilizer in Washington? Lacamas, Round and Vancouver Lakes (in Southwest Washington) all have annual HABs. (harmful algae blooms).
From Rodger Hauge (RCH)
Lacamas Watershed Council

Dear Rodger:
That’s a great question! Here in Washington, WALPA and other groups collaborated to help get a law passed in 2010 limiting the use of phosphorus fertilizer for lawns and other types of turfgrass. The Washington Legislature passed RCW 15.54.500 to restrict these uses. WALPA supported the legislation with a white paper on how limiting phosphorus inputs might improve lake health. The Washington State Department of Agriculture and WSU Extension also authored educational materials about the fertilizer restriction law.

Two questions naturally arise from your inquiry:
One question is whether these measures, now law, are enforced. Enforcement varies widely among various municipal and county governments. In places like King County/Seattle, enforcement is more consistent than in other counties where enforcement of phosphorus fertilizer regulation is more lax. Enforcement is critical to prevent more nutrient inputs into lakes and, hopefully, reduce the number of harmful algal blooms.

This leads, of course, to the second question: how do we get counties to enforce these codes? One solution is for the legislature to direct Washington’s Department of Ecology and Department of Agriculture to ensure that counties comply with the provisions of RCW 15.54.500. Another approach that has often proven effective is for the state to provide more funding for nutrient reduction in watersheds that drain to lakes and other freshwater system. This approach is one that WALPA’s Bylaws, Legislative, and Policy Committee will be working on presenting to local lawmakers before the 2023 legislative session.

Dr. Waterline is always interested in hearing from you! Please send us your burning questions about lakes and we’ll respond by throwing cool, soothing information all over them. Ask about any scientific and environmental, agency and policy, or aquatic health and treatment issues around lakes in Washington and Idaho. Visit https://www.walpa.org/waterline/ask-dr-waterline/ to submit your question.