Best Practices

Healthy Lakes & Rivers includes five simple and inexpensive best practices on your property that

improve habitat and
water quality

A best practice is a proven method to produce desired results. In the case of Healthy Lakes & Rivers, our team surveyed citizen, business, and agency partners to identify the top 5 best practices to improve habitat and water quality for typical shoreland properties.

We encourage do-it-yourselfers to use these practices but have also created a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Healthy Lakes & Rivers grant for funding assistance. A requirement of grant-funded projects is a signed contract stating the shoreland property owner will maintain the project for at least 10 years.

Curious about the health of your shoreland property? Use the Score My Shore Shoreland Evaluation Tool to find out!

Score My Shore
Illustration of five best practices used to improve lakeshore property, Illustration by Karen Engelbretson

Are Healthy Lakes & Rivers best practices a

good fit for your property?

The Healthy Lakes & Rivers best practices, in particular the diversion and rock infiltration practices, probably aren’t a good fit if your property is on slopes greater than 20%, drains more than two acres to a waterbody, has substantial visible erosion, or is mostly cleared and covered with hard surfaces like rooftops, driveways, and roads. Some of these sites with complex problems may require engineering design and/or professional assistance.

Fish Sticks

Create fish and wildlife habitat.


Fish Sticks are feeding, breeding, and nesting areas for all sorts of critters – from fish to song birds. They can also prevent bank erosion – protecting lakeshore properties and your lake.


  • peaceful lake scene with fish sticks placed along shoreline, pontoon boat in background
  • Cluster of fish sticks near shoreline
  • Fish swimming amongst cluster of fish sticks near shoreline
  • Underwater image of fish swimming amongst cluster of fish sticks near shoreline
  • cable around tree anchored to shoreline
  • cable around tree anchored to shoreline
  • fish sticks implemented along shoreline, Photo Credit: Pamela Toshner

350 ft2 Native Plantings

Improve wildlife habitat, natural beauty, and privacy, and decrease runoff.

icons frog butterfly songbird decrease runoff

Native Plantings include grasses and wildflowers with shrubs and trees. Choose a template based on your property and interests – from bird/butterfly habitat to a low-growing garden showcasing your lake or river view.


  • native garden planted along shoreline of beautiful home on a lake
  • Pontoon boat filled with friendly neighbors visiting in front of shoreline containing 350ft2 native plantings
  • 350ft2 Native Plantings along lake shoreline on a calm day, beautiful home in background, all flowers in full bloom
  • 350ft2 Native Plantings along shoreline, park shelter in background, taken on a beautiful fall day
  • Bright purple astors in a 350ft2 native planting along shoreline, bumble bee is sitting on the colorful blooms
  • illustration of 350ft2 native plantings diagram of suggested plant pairings
  • illustration of 350ft2 native plantings along shoreline, people and dog enjoy the lake on a summer day, boats in background


Prevent runoff from getting into your lake or river.


Diversion Practices move water to areas where it can soak into the ground instead. Depending on your property, multiple diversions may be necessary.


  • diversion practice implemented across pathway of home near a lake
  • Diversion practice implemented on hillside of a home near shoreline
  • Diversion practice redirecting street runoff
  • diversion practice across driveway into a rain garden

Rock Infiltration

Capture and clean runoff.


Rock Infiltration practices fit in nicely along roof drip lines and driveways and provide space for runoff to filter itself. They work best if your soil is sandy or loamy.


  • rock infiltration implemented along side of house
  • Rock infiltration implemented along side of driveway, next to parked car, oil, water and sand collect in driveway and flow through rock infiltration
  • diagram of rock infiltration installation guidelines

Rain Garden

Create wildlife habitat and natural beauty while capturing and cleaning runoff.


Rain gardens multi-task – they improve habitat and filter runoff while providing a naturally beautiful view.


  • rain garden collecting water off street
  • rain garden at work during a rain event
  • These native plants do a great job soaking up water in the rain garden as well as display fabulous color.
  • large rain garden planted atop a hill overlooking lake, pontoon boat in background on calm lake
  • large rain garden planted in yard near lakeshore. Photo Credit: Cheryl Clemens