Farm Practices That Protect Waterways

Rainwater Collection

Excess rain water from roof runoff picks up pollutants from manure and carries them to streams, lakes, or Bellingham Bay. Divert roof water to stock watering tanks, rain barrels, dry wells, or unused pasture areas. Obtain a permit to direct water to existing wetlands or bodies of water.

Filter Strips

Create a vegetated filter strip near crop land, grazing land, and livestock confinement areas that border streams or lakes. Filter strips keep pollutants, including bacteria, out of waterways, keeping them clean and healthy for recreation and wildlife.

Manure Storage

Store manure in a high, dry, level area away from slopes, steams, ditches, flood prone areas, and wetlands. Cover your manure pile so rainwater cannot reach it. Rainwater that falls on manure will carry pollutants to streams, lakes, or the bay. Remove manure every 1-3 days from stalls, paddocks, and outdoor arenas.


Build your compost pile on an impervious surface or compacted site. Cover the pile with a roof or plastic sheet to keep it from getting too wet or dry. Use only herbivore manure in your compost. Carnivores, such as dogs and cats, share similar pathogens with humans and their manure should be disposed of in the trash. Kitchen scraps are best managed in a worm bin to avoid attracting rats and other unwanted pests to your livestock area.

Pasture Management

Rotate pasture land to improve quality forage growth. Continuous grazing allows weeds to grow where grass roots have been weakened. Pasture rotation and good pasture management produces more grass, fewer weeds, and no bare ground. Provide time for regrowth after grazing. Most forages need at least 4-6 inches of new growth before they can be grazed again without harm.

Manage pasture according to seasonal growth. Forage growth is high in May and June. Fields can be regrazed in 10-14 days during this time. During July and August, forage growth declines and requires 30 days or more before regrazing. Limit field access from November to March when forage growth is low. Confine animals to a sacrifice field during this time.

Protect Riparian Areas

Riparian refers to areas adjacent to a body of water, including streams and lakes. Riparian area vegetation influences water quality and the aquatic ecosystem. Plant and maintain native trees, shrubs, and groundcovers to improve salmon habitat and water quality. Fence animals out of streams, ditches, and riparian vegetation.

Lake Whatcom Reservoir Rule

To protect our drinking water source, no new hobby farms are permitted  (BMC 16.80.​060)

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