As the lakeshore and the surrounding uplands are converted from a well forested landscape to a more suburbanized setting, more nutrients oftentimes enter the lake and in turn promote plant growth. Keep in mind, the same nutrients that stimulate growth of our lawns will also stimulate growth in our lakes. Nutrients can originate from a number of sources within the Sunset Lake watershed that include septic system effluent, lawn fertilizer runoff, and sediment washout. There are many steps you can take to minimize nutrient runoff, which increases microscopic plant growth (greenness), contributes to the slimy coatings we find on rocks along our beaches and that is conducive to the formation of new, or expansion of existing weed beds around the periphery of Sunset Lake.
Using appropriate lakeside landscaping practices is one of the primary ways we can help prevent degradation and possibly even improve the Sunset Lake water quality. The two nutrients that humans contribute to lakes that can most negatively affect lake water quality are phosphorus and nitrogen. The best way to prevent algae growth or too many plants/weeds from growing in the lake is to minimize the amount of phosphorus and nitrogen that flows into the lake. By fixing eroding areas, soaking up runoff water on the landscape, and limiting the use of fertilizer on lawns the amount of phosphorus and nitrogen in the lake will be minimized. Plus, there are New Hampshire laws governing certain aspects of landscaping at the lake's edge such as building and maintaining retaining walls and beaches. Visit our Lakeside Landscaping page for more information.
Excessive organic matter (leaves, grass clippings, etc.) are a major source of nutrients in the aquatic environment. As the vegetative matter decomposes nutrients are “freed up” and can become available for aquatic plant and algal growth. In general, we are not concerned with this material entering the lake naturally (leaf senescence in the fall) but rather excessive loading of this material as occurs when residents dump or rake leaf litter and grass clippings into the lake. This material not only provides large nutrient reserves, which can stimulate aquatic plant and algal growth, but also makes great habitat for leaches and other potentially undesirable organisms in swimming areas.
Ducks and geese that are locally fed tend to concentrate in higher densities around the known food source and can result in localized water quality problems. Waterfowl quickly process food into nutrients that are capable of stimulate microscopic plant (“algal”) growth. Ducks and geese are also host to the parasite responsible for swimmers itch. While not a serious health threat, swimmers itch is very uncomfortable especially for young children.
Faulty septic systems are a big concern as they can be a primary source of water pollution around our lakes in the summer. Septic systems are loaded with nutrients and can also be a health threat when not functioning properly. Inspect your system on a timely basis and pump out the septic tank every three to five years depending on tank capacity and household water use. Since the septic system is such an expensive investment often costing a minimum of $10,000 for a complete overhaul, it is advantageous to assure proper care is taken to prolong the system’s life. Additionally, following proper maintenance practices will reduce lake and ground water quality degradation. See Septic Systems and Source Water Protection: Homeowners Can Help Improve Community Water Quality for more information.
It only takes a small amount to pollute lake, stream, and ground water. Store, handle and use with attention paid to the label instructions.
The SWQPA sets legal regulations aimed at protecting water quality. Permits are required for most excavation, fill, or construction activities within 250 ft of the Sunset Lake shoreline including building and maintaining docks, retaining walls, beaches, and structures. Visit the SWQPA website at des.nh.gov for more information.