In areas both near and far from the creek, our watershed faces some major challenges. These include:

Stormwater Runoff
Stormwater runoff is a major source of water pollution. Dirt, chemicals and other pollutants on buildings and roads are washed off during storms into storm drains that lead to our local streams and rivers. During rain, polluted water from our streets is flooding our creeks, eroding stream banks, washing away natural stream habitats and fouling stream ecosystems. In many places, rainwater also overloads sanitary sewer pipes, causing them to discharge raw sewage into our streams.

Invasive Plants
Invasive plants have a devastating effect on local streams. Shallow-rooted invasives (Japanese Knotweed, Garlic Mustard, Lesser Celandine) invade creekside areas, crowding out long-rooted native plants and contributing to soil erosion, loss of biodiversity and stream habitat degradation. Without the long roots of native plants to stabilize the soil along the edges of the creeks, stream banks erode at an alarming rate. Soil from erosion kills the insect larvae that feed our native fish. Erosion widens streams and undercuts trees that provide crucial shade. This ultimately creates a wider, shallower, warmer creek that cannot sustain the native fish and aquatic life that thrive in deeper, cooler waters.

Negligence and Misuse
Most people don’t realize that storm drains on the streets lead directly to our creeks. Chip bags, candy wrappers, gum and cigarette butts discarded on the sidewalks or out of car windows ultimately make their way from the street through the storm drain system and into the creek. Also, motor oil, antifreeze and windshield wiper fluid from cars, and salt and sand from road treatments make the same journey and eventually wind up damaging our waterways. In addition, urban green spaces are sometimes used for illegal activities, such as illegal dumping. This is not only unhealthy for the natural stream habitat, but it makes the parks unattractive and unhealthy for people who want to enjoy the city’s natural areas. Reckless ATV use destroys native plants and erodes stream banks, and graffiti damages trees and can contribute to an unsafe feeling for other park users.

Wasteful Water Usage
When we flush excess tap water down our drains, we are wasting a precious resource. Our tax dollars and a lot of energy go into making that water potable, and additional money and resources go into cleaning it again after it has been flushed into the sanitary sewer system. Most of our sewer pipes are over 100 years old and are no longer water-tight. Although municipalities are working to repair them, sanitary sewer line repair is a big, slow, expensive and disruptive job. Extra water entering the pipes causes more wear and tear, more overflows, and more problems.

Photograph by Lindsay Deal

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