Friday, June 23, 2023

Penn State Watershed Friendly Certification Program Expands To Large And Small Properties, Apartments

By Beth Yount & Jodi Sulpizio,
Penn State Extension Master Watershed Steward Coordinators

The Watershed Friendly Certification Program, a collaboration between the Penn State Extension Master Watershed Steward Program and The Nurture Nature Center, has been expanded to include very small and very large properties. 

This allows more Pennsylvania residents to learn more about watershed health and take action to achieve Watershed Friendly certification. 

The program initially focused on mid-size properties between one-quarter acre and 15 acres. The mid-size property certification is unchanged.

The new categories include urban/small properties less than one-quarter acre and large or institutional properties greater than 15 acres.

The application and supporting resources help Pennsylvanians learn to follow simple guidelines to protect their local waterways. 

The certification process recognizes residents who employ best practices in managing water resources where they live in their everyday lives, including lifestyle choices that minimize water quality impacts. ​

For all three programs, the certification covers four broad areas of watershed-friendly actions--

-- Reducing stormwater runoff

-- Reducing water pollution

-- Conserving water

-- Supporting wildlife and pollinators

The urban/small lot program conservation practices include additional community-based actions and behaviors that help residents qualify for watershed-friendly certification. 

This certification applies to anyone who manages an outdoor space measuring less than 10,500 square feet (1/4 acre), manages a shared outdoor space measuring less than 10,500 square feet (1/4 acre) with others, or manages a streetside, patio, or rooftop patio garden, or only controls their indoor living environment. 

This can apply to anyone, even if they do not own property.

The large property certification is designed for anyone who manages a property greater than fifteen acres in size. 

This includes properties such as personal residences, businesses, schools, churches, farms, shared properties such as HOA's, hospital campuses, public/municipal properties, institutions, and more that employ best practices in managing water resources where they live, work, and recreate to minimize adverse impacts on water quality. 

More in-depth questions for certifying farms will be added in the near future.

Specific criteria and best practices are as follows--

1. Reduce stormwater runoff by--

    -- Installing a rain barrel.

    -- Creating a rain garden or bioswale. Reducing lawn area with native plantings such as trees, rain gardens, bioswales, meadows, or riparian buffers.

    -- Keeping storm drains clear of debris.

    -- Minimizing impervious surfaces such as hardscaping, concrete, and brick.

    -- Directing downspouts to permeable surfaces.

    -- For large properties, naturalizing and regularly inspecting stormwater retention basins.

    -- Urban/small property residents can use downspout planters, container plantings on a sidewalk, roof, or patio, or help maintain community green spaces that reduce stormwater.

2. Reduce pollution from your property or community by--

    -- Reducing or eliminating the use of herbicides and pesticides on your property.

    -- Testing soil before using commercial fertilizer and limiting applications to the recommended amounts.

    -- Avoiding or minimizing the use of salt in the winter; instead, try using sand, which can be swept up after the ice or snow has melted.

    -- Picking up pet waste and putting it in the trash.

    -- Removing litter from your property or neighborhood and storing motors, batteries, chemicals, or toxic materials indoors

    -- Washing cars at a car wash or on a vegetated surface, using nontoxic soaps, to prevent dirty water from running into your nearest stream.

    -- Additionally, for urban/small property residents, maintaining clean, clear storm drains by removing litter or debris that may cause a blockage, and educating community members about proper use of storm drains and avoiding flushing or washing any fats, oils, greases, wipes, or toxic substances down home or storm drains.

3. Conserve water by--

    -- Using native plants in your yard or container plantings. They typically require less watering once established.

    -- Mulching flower beds so they retain water better.

    -- Using a broom instead of cleaning patios and driveways with water.

    -- Using water from your rain barrels to water flower beds and potted plants.

    -- Limiting lawn watering. Grasses are adapted to periodic drying, and they will green up again once it rains.

    -- Turning off faucets when not actively in use, such as when brushing teeth.

    -- Capturing water for reuse while waiting for shower or bath water to warm up.

4. Support wildlife and protect stream banks by--

    -- Planting native plants and trees. This includes planting native trees along streams to shade the stream, stabilize soil, reduce erosion, and minimize flooding impacts from stormwater.

    -- Planting native plants to provide habitat and food for birds, butterflies and other pollinators, fish, and other organisms. Non-natives do not provide the maximum benefit. Planting native plants in your yard or containers reduces the need for pesticides and watering. Native plants are more resistant to local diseases and insect pests.

     -- Providing shelter for wildlife by leaving leaves and plant debris when possible.

    -- Controlling invasive species that impair ecosystem health.

    -- For urban residents, providing outdoor pots or container plantings with native plants, and planting or maintaining native plants to provide habitat in community green spaces.

Who can certify their property?

The Watershed Friendly Certification application is open to all residents, regardless of property size! 

This can include everyone from apartment dwellers to suburban residents, to schools, houses of worship, municipal buildings, small businesses, commercial properties, and others.

What does a certified property look like?

There is no uniform appearance for a certified property. All certified properties or individuals will feature enough best-management practices for their type of certification that reduce stormwater runoff and pollution, conserve water, and provide beneficial habitats for wildlife and pollinators to reach the qualifying 85% score.

Why should you certify your property as watershed-friendly?

The Watershed-Friendly Certification program allows residents in their individual watersheds and across Pennsylvania, to improve and maintain the quality of water resources, as well as improve and maintain habitat for wildlife and pollinators. 

Residents, communities, educational institutions, and businesses will be educated about the value of healthy watersheds and implement best practices for improving water quality. 

The certification recognizes commitments to watershed health and also raises awareness for others. 

Healthy landscapes make healthy communities, and we all have a stake in watershed health, no matter where we live.

How can you certify your property?

To certify your property, navigate to the online application and select the appropriate category from the options--

-- Urban/Small Lot or Apartment - 10,500 square feet or apartment dwellers

-- Rural/Suburban Mid-Sized Property - 0.25 to 15 acres

-- Large Property - over 15 acres

You are encouraged to download a pdf of the application, so you can gather the information or photos needed to answer the questions. 

If your application meets the 85% threshold, you will be notified upon submission and will receive an email with a certificate verifying your watershed-friendly status.

If you do not initially meet the 85% requirement, don't worry! You are already trying to positively impact your watershed and you can make improvements. 

You can use the resources and information provided in the application to increase your watershed-friendly practices to reach the 85% level. 

Additionally, you can contact your nearest Master Watershed Steward Program coordinator for help and learn more about stormwater management from Penn State Extension's Stormwater Basics.

There is no cost for the application or certificate. However, successful applicants will receive a free window/door decal or purchase the Watershed-Friendly Property sign.

For all the details, visit the Penn State Extension Watershed Friendly Certification Program website.

Other New Extension Articles

-- Penn State Master Gardener Pollinator Habitat Certification

-- Master Watershed Stewards Plant Native Meadow In Indiana County

-- Meadow Repository - Resources For Planning, Planting Meadows

-- Master Watershed Stewards Native Plant Clean Water Installation In Delaware County Park

-- Managing Your Drinking Water Well During A Drought

-- Preparing For Drought Conditions

Education Programs

-- Multiple Dates: Private Water Supply Education & Water Testing Workshops

(Reprinted from the latest Penn State Extension Watershed Winds newsletterClick Here to sign up for your own copy (bottom of page).)

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-- Partnership For The Delaware Estuary Now Accepting Applications For Urban Community Green Infrastructure, Water Quality, Access, Resilience Mini-Grants  [PaEN]

-- Susquehanna River Basin Commission Approves Water Withdrawal Projects, Including 12 Related To Shale Natural Gas Drilling  [PaEN]

-- Susquehanna River Basin Commission Approves 32 Shale Gas Well Pad Water Use Permits In Bradford, Clearfield, Lycoming, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Tioga, Wyoming Counties  [PaEN] 

-- Senate Environmental Committee Reports Out Bills Letting Polluters Decide When To Report Spills And CO2 Injection Well Primacy By Party-Line Votes  [PaEN] 

[Posted: June 23, 2023]  PA Environment Digest

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