Phosphorus Fertilizer Law


Chautauqua County's Phosphorus Lawn Fertilizer Law was enacted to reduce over-enrichment of rivers, lakes, and streams with the nutrient phosphorus. Excessive phosphorus in surface water leads to an overabundance of aquatic plants and algae. Excessive levels of aquatic plants and algae are a major problem in many of Chautauqua County's lakes and waterways. Too much algae and plants lowers oxygen levels and darkens the water, thereby harming fish populations, reducing recreational enjoyment, increasing drinking water treatment costs, and it also poses potential human health risks.

Chautauqua is the second county in the state to implement such restrictions, although the Governor’s office is proposing similar legislation statewide that also includes banning phosphorus-containing dish detergents. The Chautauqua County law was enacted on October 29, 2009. Restrictions on fertilizer use on lawns and turf are being phased in over time. References to specific dates of restrictions and exemptions are given below.

Use of phosphorus fertilizer on lawns and turf is restricted:middleNumberImage.JPG

Lawn Fertilizers containing phosphorus cannot be used on lawns and turf in Chautauqua County after January 1, 2011unless one of the following situations exists:

  • A soil test shows a need for phosphorus.
  • A new lawn is being established by seeding or laying sod.

When these situations do not exist, County law requires phosphorus-free lawn fertilizer is to be used. The nutrient value of a fertilizer is indicated by a series of three numbers printed on the bag. The numbers represent percent nutrient content of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium, in that order. A fertilizer marked with 22-0-15, for example, is phosphorus-free as the middle number is zero. When used, phosphorus lawn fertilizer needs to be applied at rates recommended by the soil test results.

As of December 28, 2009:

Lawn fertilizer on impervious surfaces needs to be cleaned up

Lawn Fertilizer spilled or spread on impervious surfaces such as sidewalks, driveways, and streets needs to be cleaned up immediately to prevent it from washing away into rivers, lakes and streams. This applies to all fertilizers, whether or not they contain phosphorus. If you accidentally spill or spread fertilizer on a hard surface, clean it up and spread it on the proper area or store it in a sealable container for latter use.

Lawn Fertilizer cannot be applied within twenty (20) feet of any surface water

This applies to all fertilizers, whether or not they contain phosphorus.

Lawn fertilizer cannot be applied between December 1st and April 1st

This applies to all fertilizers, whether or not they contain phosphorus.

Retailers selling fertilizer:

Effective February 26, 2010, retailers must post a sign that contains the new regulations for sale and use of fertilizer and explains the effects of phosphorous on water quality. The sign must be in the form provided by the County Department of Health. A downloadable sign is available. downloadable sign

Effective January 1, 2011, retailers cannot display lawn fertilizer containing phosphorus, but may post signs advising customers that lawn fertilizer containing phosphorus is available upon request for uses permitted by law.


Fertilizers containing phosphorous can continue to be used for agricultural crops, flower and vegetable gardens, trees and shrubs, and greenhouses and nurseries.