Voluntary Nutrient Reduction

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Voluntary Nutrient Reduction Program-video

Voluntary Nutrient Reduction Program- brochure



Durham Counties Voluntary Nutrient Reduction Program encourages citizens to reduce their fertilizer use by 40% and follow the guidelines in the Voluntary Nutrient Reduction brochure.


Voluntary Nutrient Reduction Program- brochure

What is the VNRP?

Durham County’s Voluntary Nutrient Reduction Program (VNRP) is a voluntary initiative to encourage its citizens to become good stewards of the land by reducing their fertilizer use by 40%. Participants register and pledge to follow fertilizer Best Management Practices (BMPs) on their property.


Misapplying fertilizer on home lawns is a common mistake that has far reaching implications. Not only may it be a waste of the homeowner’s money and time, but each year excess nutrients from fertilizers enter our rivers and streams, contributing to the pollution of our surface waters.

Careless or unnecessary use of lawn and garden fertilizers can contribute to nitrogen and phosphorus pollution of streams, rivers, lakes, estuaries and coastal waters downstream. If fertilizer that is intended for your yard/garden ends up in the storm drain, then it will be washed downstream during the next rain event and make its way into a nearby body of water. Excess Nitrogen and Phosphorous in water bodies can cause algal blooms which in turn can lead to a decrease in oxygen in the water and thereby result in fish kills.

The over use or improper use of fertilizers in Durham can lead to decreased water quality values in nearby Jordan and Falls Lakes, which are subject to stringent water quality rules because of high chlorophyll a (an estimation of how much algal biomass present) levels. Those chlorophyll a levels will rise or lower depending on the amount of nutrients (such as nitrogen and phosphorous) entering the water column. By keeping yard/garden fertilizers out of the water column, we can impact the water quality of our lakes and streams in Durham.

Will this really make a difference?

Through a combined effort, Durham County’s landowners can make a difference in protecting their county’s water resources and improving water quality in NC.

Benefits to you

  • You will be a part of the solution that helps Durham County protect and improve its water quality
  • You will use less fertilizer and thereby save more $$

 VNRP BMPs: 6 simple steps to a better environment

  1. Test your Soil! - Plants can only use so much nitrogen or phosphorous and applying extra can become a problem &/or waste your money $$$. The soil test information is an important first step in determining what type and how much fertilizer should be used. The soil test is free, and you can obtain the sample boxes and reporting forms from the Durham County Agriculture Building at 721 Foster St., Durham. Once you have your soil-sample results, you will be able to calculate the amount of phosphorus, potassium and lime that your lawn or garden requires.
  2. Fertilizer Management! – To determine the correct amount of fertilizer to use, follow the fertilizer formula procedure to find out:
    • The recommended application rate of nitrogen based fertilizers for established lawns in the Piedmont is ½ or 1 lb of Nitrogen per 1000 square feet.
    • To apply 1 lb of Nitrogen per 1000 sq feet, divide the 1st number on the fertilizer bag into 100. (For example: a 16-4-8 fertilizer, the 16 is the percent of Nitrogen in the product, 100 / 16 = 6.25, so this fertilizer should be applied at a rate of 6.25 lbs per 1000 sq foot yard.
    • To apply ½ lb of Nitrogen per 1000 sq feet, divide the 1st number on the fertilizer bag into 50. (For example: a 16-4-8 fertilizer, should be applied at a rate of 3.13 lbs per 1000 sq foot yard.
  3. Pay attention to the weather! - Do not apply fertilizer right before a runoff-producing heavy rain or when the ground is frozen. This step will prevent fertilizer from being washed into storm drains, ending up in our streams and lakes and being a waste of $$$
  4. Clean Up! - Sweep up spilled fertilizer from driveways, sidewalks and curbs to prevent fertilizer spilled on impervious areas from being washed into storm drains and streams.
  5. Protect the Buffers! - Do not apply fertilizer within 20 feet of any body of water. Streams, ponds and other bodies of water need a minimum of a 20 ft. vegetated buffer area to help reduce the excess runoff of nutrients from the fertilized and managed areas.
  6. Less is More! - It is best for the environment and your lawn to make more frequent low-rate applications and to use slow release or controlled release fertilizer. Apply fertilizer at the “basic” rate of nitrogen per year according to the NC Cooperative Extension Service publication, ‘Carolina Lawns a Guide to Maintaining Quality Turf in the Landscape’, http://www.turffiles.ncsu.edu/PDFFiles/004175/Carolina_Lawns.pdf

How do I sign up?

Register here : https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1KVRetUBp3Jvo77Luw2i9ivlijam__0X8_i5VcqWstTY/viewform?usp=send_form  and you will be contacted by staff to sign the pledge.


Protect and Conserve Water Brochure

Durham Counties Protect and Conserve Brochure encourages citizens to protect and conserve water.