Homeowner Guide

Click Here for a Printable, Illustrated Homeowner Guide




Those of us living and working in the watershed area are putting a lot of pressure on its ecosystems. If your life is tied to the watershed’s ecosystems, then its problems become yours. We are part of this process every time we wash our hands, do the laundry, water our lawns or wash our cars. During each of these activities, we add our waste materials to the water flowing into the streams and lake. Heavy sediment loads are now a major form of pollution that threatens the aquatic environment and our enjoyment of the lake for swimming, and other water recreations. Fertilizers and storm runoff add nutrients that enhance the growth of algae, which can cause oxygen depletion as the plant matter decays.

You can help by being informed about solutions to problems within the watershed in which you live. Remember, solutions to environmental problems are far more effective when they take into account the complex connections between ALL PARTS OF THE ECOSYSTEM.

What you and your neighbors do on your land directly affects the quality of the streams and lake within the Hayden Lake watershed, by changing the volume, velocity and timing of the surface runoff.

You can increase the chance of surface erosion, adding toxic chemicals and more nutrients to the lake.

Removing natural vegetation allows water to move faster. Faster moving water causes erosion. Control of runoff is important since it may contain pesticides, oil, antifreeze, and other materials toxic to life in the lake.

Pollution also occurs when the soil is too wet to filter sewage outflow. Effluents can seep into the groundwater without proper filtration, or it can rise to the surface and be carried into streams and drainage ways.

It is time we stopped taking the natural watershed for granted!


Water is one of the most remarkable compounds in nature. It shapes our physical environment and all life depends upon it. The physical properties of water allow it to slowly cut away hillsides and form fertile valleys through the processes of weathering erosion and sedimentation. Human activities in the watershed have greatly accelerated the natural processes of erosion and sedimentation resulting in a degradation of water quality in the streams of the watershed and in the lake.

Hayden Lake

The historic activities of farming, grazing, mining, and timber harvest have coexisted with a growing tourist industry that attracts an estimated 800,000 people each year. Over 400,000 residents of northern Idaho and eastern Washington depend upon the Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer for drinking water, which Hayden Lake and its watershed area contributes to recharge the aquifer.

Hayden Lake is showing excessive quantities of nutrients. These nutrients are coming from farmers fields, residential areas, new developments, logging operations, and inadequate septic systems

Hayden Lake shoreline is becoming suburbanized, characterized by acres of hard surfaces such as roads, rooftops, and parking areas. Studies have shown that developed areas can experience nine times more runoff than wooded areas, causing flooding, topsoil and stream bank erosion, and choked waterways.

The future of Hayden Lake depends upon all our neighbors accepting their part of the action to maintain this beautiful lake and its watershed

Movement of water, over and through the ground, is important to those who have experienced flooded basements and yards, or loss of septic systems. Surface runoff from roofs and driveways can erode yards and destroy valuable plant cover. Much of the oil, fertilizers, and herbicides washed from barren lots or lawns is carried into local streams and eventually reaches Hayden Lake. Nitrogen, phosphorus, and other nutrients present in fertilizers and decaying leaves can cause excessive algae growth once they reach the lake. When algae dies and decays, it uses oxygen needed by aquatic life. Control of runoff is important since it may contain pesticides, oil, antifreeze, and other materials toxic to life in the lake.


Erosion is the “forces (wind, air and water) wearing away the surface of the ground”

The lake is fed by creeks, which form an intricate network of waterways throughout the watershed. How you manage the land around your home determines the quality of fresh water flowing into Hayden Lake. The following five questions will help determine whether the stream needs immediate attention:

1. Is there a build up of silt in the stream?

2. Is the stream receiving unfiltered runoff from lawns, agriculture fields, industrial sites or parking lots?

3. Are the banks unstable?

4. Are the septic systems polluting the stream?

5. Are there unnatural obstructions in the stream?

Sediment from eroding stream banks can smother aquatic life, clog fish gills, and cut off needed sun light to underwater plants.

Erosion is more typical in rural and suburban areas where pavement, rooftops, compacted soil, and other impenetrable surfaces prevent rain from filtering into the soil. As a result, greater volumes of water enter local creeks causing the stream banks to erode.

Make sure stream is surrounded by plenty of trees. Trees are important for the stability of the bank and the health of the stream.

Retain native trees and shrubbery intact. Roots are natures purifying system that remove nutrients and trap sediments harmful to the stream and lake. They provide shade, keeping the water cool for fish and other aquatic animals.

– Incorporate only natural vegetation in or around streams. (See plant list in plant section).

– Place erosion barriers at bottom of disturbed soil areas. (See plant list in the plant section)

– Stabilize steep slopes with deep-rooted ground cover. (See plant list section)

– Avoid heavy loads near banks or shorelines.

– Build steps or a ramp between the top of bank of stream or lake for access.


Certain parts of the lake shoreline are subject to high rates of erosion due to boating, clearing shore front areas, and altering marshes, and building too near the lake edge. Building structural retainers can be expensive and may not work. Structural retainers can also cause erosions to occur in other parts of the lake. Adding vegetation is less expensive and can be more effective. Vegetation, however, may not provide protection during severe weather and requires more maintenance and protection from people and animals.


Greenbelts are a 50-foot strip of vegetation between a body of water and a driveway, cultivated area (yards/gardens) or buildings. A landscape plan should be developed before planting each shrub. A roll of netting can be used as a temporary ground cover

A low lying area that receives runoff from a large land area and has insufficient infiltration capacity. Surface erosion occurs when:

1. The topsoil is less than two feet deep to a seasonally high water table

2. The soil has a high clay content

3. A hard pan layer is below the surface

Rainwater runs down hill—- some filters through the soil and some runs directly into nearby streams. You can help prevent erosion by encouraging rain water to move slowly across the ground so that most of it soaks into the lower soil layers.

Standing water near your house may indicate the ground has settled and will require fill dirt be added to the area and replanted.

A berm may be required to keep storm water away from septic systems. A drainage pipe can also be properly installed to carry water away from area. When wet spots cannot be avoided, you may be able to move it to an area around shrubs or trees by installing a swale to carry water across the yard.

The installation of infiltration devices can increase the amount of surface water that can soak into the ground, even on sites with well-drained soils. Keep in mind that surface runoff cannot penetrate soils that are at or past their saturation point or where there is a clay hard pan. You can increase infiltration, by slowly spreading runoff in a series of terraces or runoff spreaders.

Infiltration devices will loose their effectiveness over time when they become clogged with silt, clay or fine sand particles. Sediment traps, watersheds, or grassy sediment areas may be required before runoff water reaches infiltration devices.


By following these few simple guidelines, you can make your home more attractive and help prevent erosion:

Landscape your yard to minimize runoff.

Preserve the established trees in your neighborhood which can help minimize the damage caused by surface runoff.

Establish a greenbelt.

Choose the appropriate plants, shrubs, and trees for the soil in your yard; don’t select plants that need lots of watering (which increases surface runoff).

Call your local University of Idaho Extension Office or nursery for advice about plants, shrubs, and trees for landscaping your yard.

There are many ways you can improve drainage in your yard and reduce the potential for erosion. Most of these suggestions are inexpensive, and easy to implement. You can reduce surface runoff by:

1. Installing gravel trenches along driveways or patios to collect water

2. Restoring bare patches as soon as possible to avoid erosion

3. Grade all areas away from your house at a slope of 1.5%

4. Installing grass swales to move water from one area to another

5. Planting trees and/or shrubs to promote infiltration ( See landscaping chapter)

6. Using low ridges or berms to direct water into swales



Septic systems consist of two parts—-a septic tank and a leach field (soil absorption system).

Septic tanks are made of steel, concrete, fiberglass, or polyethylene and must be large enough to hold a volume equivalent to a two-day flow of wastewater from your home. The solids settle to the bottom of the first partition of the tank, while the liquids and lighter particles float to the surface overflowing to the second half of the tank where they are digested by introduced bacteria. The treated wastewater is then piped to perforated piping called a leach field.


The drain field, or absorption system, is critical to how well your septic system functions. Perforated pipe must be laid in suitable soil, away from tree roots and man made structures. The drain field must be large enough area to absorb your home’s daily wastewater.


Design, construction, or maintenance problems are usually responsible for septic failures. Effluents rising to the surface of the ground indicate failures, drains become plugged easily, or toilets fail to flush or are sluggish.


When designing a system, check the water table below the surface. The table should be a minimum of four feet below the septic drain field. Other problems and failures include perforated pipe laid on improper grades, incorrect joints and alignments between the system’s components, and perforated pipes broken or crushed during construction.


The threat of disease is a key problem in treating human wastewater. The epidemics that killed millions of people in the Middle Ages were attributed to the mixing of human waste with drinking water supplies. Domestic wastewater can cause both health and nuisance problems if allowed to reach surface or groundwater supplies. Nitrogen created by the septic system can be a significant threat to your health. Nitrogen absorbed into your blood stream decreases the blood ability to carry oxygen to your vital organs. Nitrogen carried in septic tank wastewater is usually in the form of ammonia, which is readily transformed into nitrate. These nitrates become part of the surface water supplies. Nitrates fuel the growth of algae in our lakes and are responsible for the subsequent loss of oxygen to aquatic life when the algae die and decompose.


The following is a list of things you as a homeowner can do to extend the life of your septic system:

1. Have your septic tank pumped at least once every five years or sooner as needed

2. Fix leaking faucets and toilets quickly to prevent drain field saturation

3. Plant gardens away from drain fields to prevent field saturation

4. Plant grass or shallow rooted plants over drain fields

DRYWELLS are underground tanks with slotted sides or holes drilled into the ground and filled with aggregate that gather storm water. The water percolates out of the tank into the surrounding soils.



Recreational boating provides relaxation and enjoyment for many area residents. However, boating also contributes to the lake’s environmental problems. All of us, especially boaters, have a lot to lose if the river and lake waters deteriorate. As a boat owner, you can play a major part in protecting water quality in the lake.

When you use your boat in other lakes, be sure to clean every particle of weed from the propeller, boat, and particularly, the trailer, to prevent the spreading of non-native plants, such as milfoil. A good idea is to stop by a carwash when transporting your boat from one body of water to another.


The extent of shoreline erosion caused by boat wakes depends upon the wake’s energy. This energy is related to four factors:

1. Distance from shore

2. Hull size

3. Boat speed

4. Water depth.

To minimize shoreline erosion, boats should not produce wakes within 100 feet of the shore.

Contact the County Sheriff Department’s Marine Division for current boating information and regulations relating to wakes, speed safety, and buoy placement.


Boats are normally hauled in once a year for repairs, painting and general maintenance. Many of the chemicals used for cleaning, dissolving, painting and maintenance are toxic to aquatic life. A few simple precautions can prevent these chemicals from unduly harming the lake.

Copper and tributyltin (TBT) bottom paints used to prevent fouling, cause particular environmental damage. In fact, the use of tirbutyltin is now greatly restricted by federal legislation. Bottom paints are a necessary evil, but their impact can be lessened if you control the amount that enters the lake. When scraping the boat bottom, catch the scrapings with a drop cloth. Throw the cloth away when you’re finished. If you don’t have a drop cloth, sweep up the scrapings and throw them in the trash.

Boat and bilge cleaners are very concentrated pollutants, so clean the oil from the bilge’s of your boat when it is out of the water. Resort owners and operators can participate in the lake protection effort by installing and maintaining a used oil drum so it is easier for boaters to recycle their boat’s oil.


The phosphates in soap that you use to wash your boat contribute to excessive algae growth in the lake. If you rinse and scrub your boat with a brush after each use instead of using soap, you will be helping the lake. If your boat is stained, use phosphate-free soap or laundry detergent to get it clean. When possible avoid products designed specifically to remove stains and make your boat shine since they are often extremely toxic. Products with warning on the label can kill aquatic life if washed overboard.


· Preservation of eroding shorelines due to water traffic

· Preservation of fish and wildlife habitat along shorelines, in marshy areas, and in the lake.

· Spillage of fuel from boat tanks.

· Using the lake for a toilet or dumping ‘grey’ water directly into lake.

· Dumping trash from your boat.

All of the above cause harm to the lake by adding harmful chemicals to the waters we all want to enjoy.