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City of Austin: Lawn and Garden Chemical Education

The City of Austin conducted a multimedia advertising campaign to educate the public on the proper use of lawn and garden chemicals.


Several Austin-area creeks and portions of the Colorado River in Austin have elevated levels of nutrients, depressed levels of dissolved oxygen, or both. Elevated nutrients can lead to excess algae growth which blocks sunlight from subsurface vegetation, lowering rates of photosynthesis, which ultimately leads to low levels of dissolved oxygen. In urban areas, nutrients are commonly introduced to waterways from residential activities such as lawn fertilizer use. To address water quality concerns the City of Austin developed the Watershed Protection Master Plan in 2001. The goals of the Watershed Protection Master Plan include minimizing toxic pesticides and excess fertilizers being washed into local waterways.

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Project Description

The project, led by the City of Austin, began in 2008 and focused on reducing the use of pesticides in the watershed. They also conducted an education campaign about proper fertilizer use with the goal of reducing nutrient levels and associated algal growth and depressed dissolved oxygen. The city used several strategies in its educational campaign, including public service announcements on major television networks, web pages, and newsletters. These messages offered viewers compelling facts to change their lawn and garden practices.

The City of Austin and its partners executed additional outreach efforts by enhancing the city’s web-site, and producing newsletters. They also worked with the Grow Green network of 45 local nurseries and home improvement centers to provide literature on water quality topics. The city created a targeted campaign in at least one neighborhood over the Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone. Presentations and newsletter articles that include the major program messages and links to the website were distributed to the neighborhoods. The effectiveness of the campaign was evaluated through public surveys. The project ended in 2011.

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For More Information

To find out more about the NPS Program, call 512-239-6682 or e-mail us at

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