Algae growth visible on pond water.


Help prevent water pollution

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Before You Apply Fertilizers Nutrient Sensitive Waters We All are a Part of the Solution

Excess fertilizer can be a source of water pollution.  Fertilizer contains nutrients- typically phosphates and nitrates- that promote plant growth for our lawns and plants when applied properly. If it is applied too frequently, too heavily, or immediately before too much rain or irrigation, the runoff will carry excess nutrients into local waterways where it can cause algae blooms and fish kills.

Before You Apply Fertilizers

Close up view of an algae bloom in stagnant water

Follow these tips before fertilizing to protect our waterways.

  • Read the fertilizer label.
    • It will tell you how many square feet can be covered by one bag.
    • Look for a “slow-release” or “controlled release” fertilizer if possible.
  • Sweep any fertilizer spills from paved surfaces and place back into the container.
  • Sweep or blow grass clippings from your walkways or driveways back onto your yard after you cut your lawn.
  • Don’t fertilize near creeks, streams, or storm drains, a good practice is to keep fertilizer about 10 feet from these waterways.
  • Pay attention to the weather!
    • Apply fertilizer on dry soil, avoid fertilizing during or before a rainstorm. Instead, use a sprinkler or irrigation system to apply a small amount of water on fertilizer.
  • Use mulch or natural fertilizers to reduce your need.
  • If you are establishing a new lawn or plantings, consider stormwater practices (straw wattles, silt fences, etc.) on the perimeter of your property that can contains erosion and stops fertilizers from entering our storm system.

Nutrient Sensitive Waters

A close-up image of a pond with green algae, grass clippings, and other vegetation floating on top of the water.

The City of Raleigh participates in the Neuse Nutrient Strategy, also known as the "Neuse Rules". This effort aims to reduce the amount of nutrient pollution (like fertilizer) that flows into the Neuse River Basin.

All the waters within Raleigh flow into the Neuse River and into the Pamlico Sound, which is the largest lagoon along the East Coast of the United States and has excess concentrations of nutrient pollution from wastewater, stormwater, and agricultural sources.

The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality manages this initiative and more information can be found on their Neuse River Strategy web page.

We All are a Part of the Solution

Help us preserve our rivers, lakes and streams and prevent nutrient pollution, which can alter and destroy our water resources and recreational areas.

If excess fertilizer application or spraying is performed within the immediate area of a stream, river, or lake, please report this to our illicit discharge program by emailing us at

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