As members of the Sunset Lake community, 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.
Shoreside vegetation (also known as riparian vegetation) and wetlands provide a protective buffer that “traps” pollutants before reaching the lake. These buffers remove materials both chemically (through biological uptake) and physically (settling materials out). As riparian buffers are removed and wetlands lost, pollutant materials are more likely to enter the lake and in turn, favor declining water quality. Tall shoreline vegetation will also discourage geese invasions and shade the water reducing the possibility of aquatic weed recruitment including the dreaded invasive milfoil. See Landscaping at the Water's Edge for more information.
Fertilizers entering the lake can stimulate aquatic plant and algal growth and in extreme cases result in noxious algal blooms. Increases in algal growth tend to diminish water transparency and under extreme cases culminate in surface “scums” that can wash up on the shoreline and can also produce unpleasant smells as the material decomposes. Excessive nutrient concentrations also favor algal forms known to produce toxins which irritate the skin and under extreme conditions, are dangerous when ingested. As documented in the NHDES Environmental Fact Sheet - Lawn Care within the Protected Shoreland, the New Hampshire Shoreland Water Quality Protection Act (SWQPA) prohibits the use of fertilizers within 25 feet of public waters, including organic products, and only slow or controlled release fertilizers can be used within 250 feet. Use low maintenance grasses such as fescues that require less nutrients and water to grow. Do not apply any fertilizers until you have had your soils tested. Oftentimes a simple pH adjustment will do more good and release nutrients already in the soils. After a lawn is established a single application of fertilizer in the late fall is generally more than adequate to maintain a healthy growth from year to year.
See the NHDES Environmental Fact Sheet - Lawn Care within the Protected Shoreland and New Hampshire's Turf Fertilizer Law - What You Should Know for more information.
A forested watershed offers the best protection against pollutant runoff. Trees and tall vegetation intercept heavy rains that can erode soils and surface materials. The roots of these plants keep the soils in place, process nutrients, and absorb moisture so the soils do not wash out. Impervious surfaces (paved roads, parking lots, building roofs, etc.) reduce the water’s capacity to infiltrate into the ground, and in turn, limit the effectiveness of nature’s water purification system, our soils. As water seeps into the soil, pollutants are removed from the runoff through absorption onto soil particles. Biological processes of soil organisms and plants detoxify substances and/or immobilize substances. Surface water runoff over impervious surfaces also increases water velocities which favor the transport of a greater load of suspended and dissolved pollutants into your lake. See Landscaping at the Water's Edge and New Hampshire Homeowner’s Guide to Stormwater Management for more information.
Try to landscape and re-develop with consideration of how water flows on and off your property. Divert runoff from driveways, roofs, and gutters to a level vegetated area or a rain garden so the water can be slowed, filtered, and hopefully absorbed as recharge for your well. See Landscaping at the Water's Edge and New Hampshire Homeowner’s Guide to Stormwater Management for more information.
Perched beaches (cribbed areas) that keep sand and rocks in-place are preferred if you have to have that type of access. Do not create or enhance beach areas with sand (contains phosphorus, smothers aquatic habitat, fills in the lake as it gets transported away by currents and wind, and encourages invasive plants and algal blooms), particularly if the sand disappears with time. Any beach construction activity requires a permit and must also comply with the Shoreland Water Quality Protection Act (SWQPA). See the NHDES Environmental Fact Sheet - Permitting Non-Tidal Beaches for more information.
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. See NHDES Waterfront Development for more information.