Fourteen ways to keep our lakes clean

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By Tomás Moggia
Translation by Patrick Nixon
Last week we published an article on our blog titled "Galvanizing community action to protect the lakes of southern Chile." In that article we included a poster prepared by the environmental group Vigilantes del Lago to empower citizens so that they become agents of change and take charge of the protection of their local lakes, rivers, ponds and streams. And in order for everyone to fully take part in this initiative, we're reprinting here the 14 tips that appear on the poster with an explanation of how and why they are important.
1.- Prefer phosphate-free detergents, especially if you live near riverside areas and have a septic tank. Check the information on the packaging. Avoid pouring them into the water.
Phosphates are one of the main nutrients that cause the deterioration of lakes. This process is called eutrophication.
2.- Plant / reforest native vegetation in riparian / littoral / coastal areas (within 5 to 10 meters of the riverbank). Avoid cutting riverside vegetation / flora.
The riparian vegetation is a sponge that retains some of the nitrates and phosphates present in the erosive processes of the soil.
3.- Avoid using the lake / lagoon / wetland as a public toilet.
Urinating and defecating in lakes not only contributes nitrates and phosphates, but also bacteria that could cause illness.
4.- Avoid disposing of filters / cigarette butts in the water or riverbanks / shore/ coast. These have toxins that affect aquatic life (they contaminate between 50 and 70 liters of water).
Cigarette butts contain many pollutants that are toxic to aquatic biota. If they are thrown away on beaches and banks, with winter the rain and floods they finally make their way into the lake.
5.- Prefers natural fertilizers / fertilizers for crops and gardens (not chemical / artificial) in areas close to water resources.
Chemical fertilizers add nitrates and phosphates to the water through runoff, and contribute to the deterioration of lakes.
6.- Pick up and dispose of your pet's feces, as they can contaminate the water.
Pet droppings deposited on beaches and banks contain nitrates and phosphates that contribute to the deterioration of lakes and with rain they reach the water.
7.- Avoid dumping waste / refuse in rivers that connect with bodies of water.
Garbage and plastic waste, is broken down and gets into the ecosystem as is the case with microplastics.
8.- Prefer pit cleaning services authorized by the competent authority.
Septic tank sludge contains concentrated nitrates and phosphates, and dumping them into rivers or lakes causes damage. If an authorized pit cleaning service is contracted, this guarantees that this sludge will be treated in sewage treatment plants and not in non-authorized places.
9.- Avoid bathing if there are greenish brown spots in the water (algae blooms), until the health authority confirms that there are no health risks.
Algae bloom can generate toxins that are harmful to health, and in many cases damage the skin.
10.- Prefer, if possible, boats without a combustion engine.
Boats with a combustion engine create an annoying noise and can pollute the water if they use two-stroke engines.
11.- Wash / clean your boat before putting it in the water if you have been to other lakes / wetlands to avoid introducing plant species that are not present and that could be harmful.
There are aquatic plants such as the wrasse, which can invade bays and which are almost impossible to eradicate. Washing boats before putting them in the water reduces the risk of inadvertently moving small plant debris between the lakes.
12.- Protect lake wetlands, since they fulfill an important role for aquatic life and for water quality. Avoid filling public riparian zones.
Wetlands retain nitrates and phosphates that runoff into lakes.
13.- Protect the existing fauna, respect wildlife and the ecosystem.
Avifauna, mammals, fish and others fulfill essential functions in the aquatic ecosystem and illegal hunting and fishing of species is harmful.
14.- Report to your municipality and on social networks illegal dumping in rivers / lakes / wetlands. Collaborate in initiatives to protect these important aquatic ecosystems. Contact your municipality.
In general, lake municipalities have environmental offices and participate in lake and watershed protection programs.

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