sprinkler system

Landscaping for Water Quality

Water is everywhere. Every drop of water that falls affects the land it falls upon, and the quality of the land changes the character of the water as it travels through the landscape. We have seen the devastation that can come from large storm events and flooding, where water washes away our shorelines and floods homes and streambanks. Water changes the land. Pollution on the land, exposed soil, and excess nutrients and waste will travel with the water across the landscape muddying and contaminating our drinking water, destroying habitat for native species, increasing habitat for invasive and nuisance species, and diminishing the integrity of our most precious resource. Land changes the water.

Landscaping for Water Quality is a means of planting vegetation and using design practices to ensure that when water enters our landscapes it is replenishing the soil, and helping desired vegetation, and returning to our waterways clean so that the quality of our water resources stays high. We can use landscaping to control the flow of water, retain it during heavy storm events, slow its speed as it crosses the land, and control the materials it carries with it. Landscaping for Water Quality focuses on using a plant palette appropriate for the particular site and climate, using low-maintenance techniques and sustainable design.

Rain Barrels:

Rain Gardens:

Landscaping Resources:

Plant Databases:

Before You Build (permitting info):

Shoreline Stabilization and Erosion Control:

  • NYSDEC Shoreline Stabilization Techniques webpage is an excellent resource to learn more about the different shorescaping methods with step-by-step instructions.
  • The Vermont/Lake Champlain Shoreline Stabilization Handbook is a more technical, but very detailed resource on shorescaping.
  • Hudson River Sustainable Shorelines is an initiative focused on generating science-based information on best management practices for shorelines in the Hudson River Estuary Watershed. They offer different webinars, handbooks, and case studies on shorescaping, which are applicable to lakes/streams outside of the Hudson River watershed.
  • CCE Shorescaping Presentation slides from the Shorescaping Workshop held on Tuesday, November 5, 2019 at the Skaneateles Library

Funding Resources: 

  • NYSDEC’s Buffer in a Bag program provides property owners with at least 50ft. of shoreline along a waterbody with free trees and shrubs.
  • NYSDEC’s Trees for Tributaries program offers grants to organizations and municipalities looking to undertake streamside plantings.
  • The NYSDEC’s Water Quality Improvement Program offers funding for nonagricultural nonpoint source control, aquatic connectivity restoration, and more. 
  • NYSDEC Climate Smart Communities program provides funding for communities interested in different climate adaptation and mitigation measures, including stream/shoreline restoration and plantings (scroll to the bottom). 
  • The NY Environmental Facilities Corporation has a Green Innovation Grant Program, which funds green stormwater infrastructure projects, like rain gardens. 
  • NYS Department of State Local Waterfront Revitalization Program: This program provides financial and technical assistance for developing local waterfront revitalization programs, which when approved, opens up additional funding to communities for projects recommended as part of the program. 

Other Links:

Riparian Planting Project Update!

Group Shot Planting

Click here to read the brief project summary covering the riparian buffer volunteer planting project led by CCE Onondaga this Fall in the Skaneateles Watershed.

Click here to watch video news coverage of the project filmed by SUNY ESF Series 'Going Green'. Aired on Spectrum News 12/16/2019


This service learning stewardship project was funded by the City of Syracuse Water Department and Onondaga County Soil and Water Conservation District through Skaneateles Lake Watershed Agricultural Program principal funding.

Click to access the Species Guide and Planting Rationale for this planting project.

Last updated November 6, 2019