Fall is officially here. Leaves are starting to change color and fall off the trees. That means it will soon be time to rake leaves. It’s important to dispose of leaves properly after raking. Don’t rake leaves into the storm drains or dump them into a creek. When leaves and yard waste decompose in our waterways, they remove oxygen from the water. Decaying plants also release nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus into the water that promote excessive algae growth. Fish and other aquatic life can’t survive in water with low oxygen. Excessive algae, likewise, can pose threats to human and animal health. Dumping leaves in a creek, in other words, hurts our region's water quality. While leaves naturally accumulate in streams and creeks, you still shouldn’t collect and dispose of leaves along creek banks. The extra leaves cover the ground and keep out the natural vegetation that helps to stabilize the creek bank. This leads to increased erosion. So, what should you do with all those leaves after you finish raking? Composting is a natural -- and better -- way to dispose of leaves and other yard waste. Another option is to contact your municipality or trash hauler about collecting leaves and other yard waste.