City officials say keeping leaves off streets saves lakes

PHOTOS: Fall colors

Wisconsin’s most colorful season can also add to a change in color of lakes – and city officials are asking for help to stop it.

Autumn’s falling leaves can often run off into lakes and streams, where they release phosphorus into the water. That helps more algae bloom, according to Steve Carpenter of UW’s Center for Limnology.

“[Algae] can be toxic, [making] people sick or pets sick,” he says.

For an example, just look to this past summer: James Madison Park closed during at least one instance of overgrown algae blooms.

The city is looking to cut down on summer algae starting this fall, by asking residents to keep their leaves out of the streets.

Officials suggest using your leaves as mulch or lawn fertilizer. You can also bag up leaves and leave them for city collection, which comes roughly once every two weeks.

Madison also tracks its leaf collection online to help residents better plan when to set their leaves out to be picked up. Learn more by visiting, then clicking on the ‘leaf collection’ tab.