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What is Phosphorus?

Phosphorus is an essential nutrient for plant growth. However, too much can have a devastating impact on lakes and streams. Increased amounts of phosphorus entering waterways can stimulate algae blooms and plant growth. As these plants die and decompose they reduce the amount of oxygen available to fish and other aquatic life.

How Does Phosphorus Affect Me?

Excess plant growth stimulated by high phosphorus inputs can impair many uses of waterways. Boating, swimming and fishing become difficult and lakes and streams look, smell and taste bad. Public water systems must work overtime to make water palatable.

Where Does Phosphorus Come From?

Phosphorus has many sources. Some exists naturally in lakes and streams but human activities from residential, urban, and agricultural areas contribute a significant amount of phosphorus. Storm water, or runoff, travels across land and picks up phosphorus from fertilizers, eroded soil particles, septic systems, and pet waste and discharges it into nearby lakes and streams.

MORE PHOSPHORUS, LESS FISH:Excess phosphorus increases plant growth. As plants and algae die and decay, they rob the water of dissolved oxygen. This can devastate fish populations.

Small Mouth Bass:  Photo courtesy of www.reduce.org
Photo courtesy of www.reduce.org.

GREEN AND GOOEY: Excess phosphorus leads to an explosion of plant growth and algae blooms in lakes.

Green goo:  Photo courtesy of www.reduce.org Photo courtesy of www.reduce.org.

PHOSPHORUS EXPRESSWAY: Storm drains are designed to prevent flooding, but they also provide a direct route for phosphorus and other pollutants to enter lakes and streams.

Storm drain:  Photo courtesy of www.reduce.org

Photo courtesy of www.reduce.org.

The goal of the P-Project is to reduce the amount of external phosphorus reaching Owasco and Cayuga Lakes. The P-Project is a collaborative program led by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Cayuga County and conducted in partnership with the organizations of the Cayuga County Water Quality Management Agency. Funding is provided by the Finger Lakes-Lake Ontario Watershed Protection Alliance.

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Page updated 8/18/04