The Impact of Lawn Care Practices on Aquatic Ecosystems in Suburban Watersheds.

EPA Grant Number: R828007
Title: The Impact of Lawn Care Practices on Aquatic Ecosystems in Suburban Watersheds.
Investigators: Armbrust, Kevin L. , Black, Marsha C. , Gragson, Ted , Keeler, Andrew G. , Meyer, Judith L. , Noblet, Raymond , Shuman, Larry , West, Dee , Williams, James B.
Institution: University of Georgia , Alpharetta Environmental Services , Peachtree City Developmental Services
Current Institution: University of Georgia , Alpharetta Environmental Services , Mississippi State University - Main Campus , Peachtree City Developmental Services
EPA Project Officer: Packard, Benjamin H
Project Period: March 1, 2000 through February 28, 2003
Project Amount: $893,849
RFA: Water and Watersheds (1999) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Water and Watersheds , Water


The working hypothesis of this project is that homeowner beliefs, values, and socioeconomic status will determine loads and ecological impacts of turf care chemicals (pesticides and nutrients) in aquatic ecosystems in suburbanized watersheds. The specific objectives of this investigation are to:
    1. Measure the loading to streams and temporal trends in concentrations of turf care products and biological indicators of stream ecosystem health in creeks receiving storm water drainage from residential neighborhoods of different socioeconomic status.

    2. Compare the cultural models of lawn and lawncare held by "experts" and "homeowners" in order to determine their points of commonality and divergence, and establish the systematic nature of internal and contrastive variation.


This investigation integrates the physical, ecological and social sciences to understand the impacts of residential lawn care chemicals on aquatic ecosystems at six locations in two cities in metropolitan Atlanta. A team of university researchers and community-based stream monitoring programs will monitor pesticide and nutrient loads leaving residential neighborhoods and residue levels in receiving water and sediment of streams (physical/chemical); monitor aquatic organism populations and multiple biological indices in these streams to determine the impact of the lawn care practices (ecological); and work with selected homeowners in these neighborhoods to understand the general beliefs and values they hold of lawns, and lawn care practices they display so as to assess the impact "expert" groups have in forming these beliefs (social). Confirmatory laboratory investigations of biological effects from individual and multiple stressors will provide added confidence that observed in-stream toxicity can be tracked to a particular chemical or chemicals. Results of this research will be communicated to interested citizens via research exhibits and educational materials produced by community-based environmental protection programs.

Expected Results:

The ultimate benefit of this investigation will be to provide data on the impact that turf care products used on residential lawns have on suburban streams. These data are essential for developing community-based environmental protection programs. By documenting the divergence between homeowner and expert cultural models we hope to understand why environmental initiatives are supported or opposed as well as to design more effective communication to enhance the potential success of policies. Measuring pesticide and nutrient loading from neighborhoods of different socioeconomic status correlated with the beliefs and values of homeowners towards lawns and lawn care within these neighborhoods will begin to answer the question of whether or not untrained homeowners can be responsible users of pesticides. Trends in concentration of turf care products in water and sediment of streams correlated with ecological indices of stream health will ascertain whether the pesticides and nutrients detected in suburban waterways are impacting aquatic ecosystems.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 71 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this project: View all 17 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

public policy, chemical transport, ecology, metals., RFA, Scientific Discipline, Toxics, Water, Geographic Area, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, Water & Watershed, Hydrology, Nutrients, Ecosystem/Assessment/Indicators, pesticides, State, Ecological Effects - Environmental Exposure & Risk, Southeast, Ecology and Ecosystems, Watersheds, ecological effects, fate and transport, nutrient supply, nutrient transport, aquatic ecosystem, anthropogenic stress, ecological exposure, contaminant transport, suburban watersheds, valuation of watersheds, bioavailability, runoff, stream ecosystems, Georgia (GA), river inputs, watershed sustainablity, Atlanta, Georgia, socioeconomics, chemical transport, ecological impacts, stormwater drainage, aquatic ecosystems, lawn care practices, pesticide runoff, water quality, nutrient cycling, bioindicators, homeowner beliefs, ecological indicators, lawn care, public policy, herbecides, community values, land use

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2000 Progress Report
  • 2001 Progress Report
  • Final Report