Streets to Creeks Stormwater Art Competition

When? August 5-September 5th, 2020

Who? Open to all ages!

To celebrate National Water Quality Month, the Clean Water Education Partnership invites you to create an art piece that shows how you interact with your watershed. A watershed is an area of land that all drains to the same creek, stream, or river. Everyone lives in a watershed!

Your art piece must somehow incorporate the name of the watershed you live in. Type your address into this interactive map to find your watershed.

Or, you can discover your river basin (a larger-scale watershed) by looking at this interactive map.

 Get inspired by a few of these ideas:

  • Use non-toxic sidewalk chalk to draw a watershed message to others in your neighborhood
  • Create a poster with cool facts and photos from your watershed that you can share with others
  • Draw or take a picture of one of your favorite plants or animals in your watershed
  • Make a sculpture out of litter you find in your watershed

A stormwater art installation that doubles as a rainwater harvester (Binford Green Schools Initiative, Chesepeake Bay)

“Protect our Watersheds” art competition submission (Pennsylvania American Water)

 Your art piece can be in any medium you choose as long as you can take a photo of it.

Winners will have a photo of their art piece featured as the homepage header on the CWEP website and receive a CWEP Swag Bag with fun giveaways in the mail. Art will also be used by CWEP to create a set of greeting cards for our fall BioThon competition. 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners will be chosen weekly.

This competition is open to all ages. Children under 13 must have an adult submit their art piece.

Art can be submitted through this google form. If you have any questions please contact Hannah Barg, the CWEP Education and Outreach Coordinator at hbarg@tjcog.org.

Water-Based Distance Learning Activities

With the increase amount of school, workplace, library, and community space closures, you might be looking for some ideas to pass the time with your children. Here are some water-based/ STEM activities to pass the time while learning about water.

  •  Go on a water scavenger hunt! Using the image below, make a checklist or take photos of the following items to keep track of what you find!

water scavenger hunt

  • Sidewalk water painting. Sidewalk painting can happen with paint brushes and water, too! Watch in fascination as your designs disappear slowly because of evaporation. This is a great opportunity to begin teaching younger children about the wonders of the water cycle. This activity is best done on a sunny day.
  • Is it raining outside? Take your child on a rainy day walk! Follow the water from the gutters to see where it ends up. What did you find along the way?
  • Teach your child about the water cycle using their bodies through water cycle yoga. Visit this link if you need some inspiration for how to facilitate it!

water cycle yoga

(Image Courtesy of Durham Hub Farm)

  • Make your own mini water cycle using a to-go or old food container with a clear top. Fill the container with rocks, grass, plants, and other found items, mist with a bit of water, set in the sun, and see what happens!
  • Does your child like to color and read? Learn about stormwater runoff with the Stormwater Sleuth and Running Rain activity book put together by University of Nebraska- Extension. This activity book is geared towards 4th-8th grade students.

For a complete list of activities and online resources, please visit the new Distance Learning page

Traveling Back in time on the Neuse River

CWEP AmeriCorps member Hannah has been hard at work developing stormwater/ watershed curriculum geared towards high school students for direct education visits in member communities. Based on an Environmental Justice timeline activity she did at the National Environmental Justice Conference in Washington D.C., Hannah developed a “History of the Neuse River” timeline. During this interactive lesson, students work in small groups to match photos with their corresponding event and attempt to put the events in order. This activity is meant to familiarize students with their local watershed and give context for the specific water quality issues in their river basin. The lesson is designed to be general enough that students throughout the Neuse River Basin can use it. Hannah is in the process of creating a similar timeline for the Cape Fear River Basin in addition to creating lesson continuations that teachers can use in the classroom.

Accompanied by members, Hannah will be piloting this lesson at South Granville, East Wake, and Holly Springs High School the first week of December.

To see an interactive electronic version of the timeline, please visit the following link:

History of the Neuse: Full Timeline

Below is the summarized version of the timeline, for quick reference.

neuse river timeline updated 11.26 photo

Meet the bug that armors itself with shells, rocks and sticks!

Caddisflies are an ecologically diverse and important group of freshwater insects. Their larvae are sensitive to pollution and for this reason are used  as indicators of water quality. Oxygen concentration and water velocity are important to larvae, as is the chemical content of the water. Caddisflies live most of their lives in the larval state, depending on aquatic habitats to mature to adulthood.

Caddisflies gets creative in the ways they shield themselves from predators. Larvae construct cases, or homes, out of silk woven with sand grains, fragments of wood or twigs, stones, and other materials from their surroundings.

Check out some images below from freshwater insect photographer, Jan Hamrsky:

Caddisfly larvae spend up to two years in their cases before becoming adults. The cases are so pretty that some artists encourage caddisflies to spin their silk around semiprecious stones so their cases can be used as jewelry.

CWEP loves to use activities about macroinvertebrates to teach about clean water! We sometimes find caddisflies in streams, and at tabling events we let participants craft their own caddisflies.

Check out some images from CWEP @ Carrboro Day: “Make your own Caddisfly” craft!

Schools: This One’s For You!

How can I do my part to ensure clean water resources and a greener environment in my school? Many people should be asking this important question! Whether you are a parent, teacher, school staff member, student, or community volunteer, you want your school to provide a healthy, welcoming place to learn. In this Blog, there are several ideas about how educational institutions can take a step towards a cleaner, greener future for our water.

Schools use a tremendous amount of water every day, and require water for their heating and cooling systems, restrooms, drinking water faucets, locker rooms, cafeteria, laboratories, and outdoor playing fields and lawns. Small steps in the community toward water conservation can make a big impact. Integrating conservation efforts in educational program for students makes an impact for future generations. Greener schools also protect the environment, keep teachers and students healthy, as well as promote environmental values in young, impressionable minds.

Reusable Water Bottles

Students and teachers can take reusable water bottles to school instead of buying plastic water bottles. Plastic water bottles are not sustainable when being manufactured, shipped, and discarded around the globe. U.S. landfills are overflowing with 2 million tons of discarded water bottles alone. Much of the plastic we consume ends up in the world’s water supply, where it is even harder to fish out and safely throw away. Many bottled water plastics also contain toxins that can have a harmful effect on human health. Financially in the long run, your wallet will also thank you!

Recycle!

When you’re able to recycle, you should! All schools should have proper recycling and compost programs to ensure a clean environment. Whether its paper products, food products, plastics or upcycling old items, it’s important to think about which trash can be saved from a landfill.  If you are planning on kicking off a recycling or composting program at your school in the future, it is helpful to know how much of each kind of waste your school produces so you target the right items. There are a lot of reasons to find out where your starting point is- the celebration of your schools success will be that much better if you can measure how far you’ve come! And showing measureable success is the best way to get other school’s on board with your program.

Recycling cuts back on energy consumption and can prevent water pollution in the future. In addition to recycling, composting is a great way to promote a responsible and environmentally friendly way to deal with food scraps and waste. The finished compost product can help enhance the soil and plant quality in school vegetable and flower gardens- acting as a buffer for storm water. Composting food wastes also saves water by reducing the water needed to run a garbage disposal. We can close the loop on the food system by diverting food waste from landfills and turning it back into soil to grow more food.

Energy Conservation

Water and energy are closely linked. A clean reliable water source consumes energy and water conservation leads to energy conservation. The clean water that flows out of a faucet needs energy in many stages of processing and transport before it gets to the tap. A system of pipes delivers water to the school, and in many systems, electric pumping is used to deliver the water at the proper level of pressure. The wastewater that flows away from the school must be transported to a wastewater treatment plant to be treated and released back into the natural water cycle. This also requires energy. The transportation of water is one of the most significant uses of energy in freshwater production. It is important to remember that when you conserve water, you conserve energy as well. Which leads to my next point… water conservation!

Water usage and conservation

Outdoors:

In a schools outdoor environment, a lot can also be done to reduce water use. Water-efficient landscaping helps a school conserve water outdoors. A school can maximize natural, native vegetative cover and limit lawn space. Most native plants can survive on the natural rainfall in the area since they are accustomed to the climate. Maintaining fields using drought tolerant grasses is also important. Consider planting more trees, shrubs, ground covers, and less grass. Shrubs and ground covers provide greenery for much of the year and usually demand less water.  Applying mulch around shrubs and flower beds can help them retain moisture. This reduces the amount of watering necessary to keep the ground moist. Adding compost or an organic matter to soil will improve soil conditions and water retention. Collecting rainfall for irrigation is another important step to ensure water conservation. Avoid using a hose to clean off school walkways. Rather, opt for a broom to clean walkways, driveways, and entrances.

Indoors:

At school or in your daily life, cutting down on water usage can save more water and make a bigger impact than you’d think. As stated earlier, schools use a large amount of water every day, and require water for their heating and cooling systems, restrooms, drinking water faucets, locker rooms, cafeteria, laboratories, and outdoor playing fields and lawns. To reduce water use in the school, consider replacing old equipment such as dishwashers with energy saving devices. Repair water leaks and leaky toilets. Installing sensor-operated sinks work well for kids because the faucets shut off automatically. Using water-efficient toilets, low-flow shower heads and timer shut-off devices to reduce water use during showers can dramatically reduce the amount of water consumed. Collecting excess water and using it later can also help to conserve water in the long run. For example, establishing a rain barrel or placing containers under school water fountains to use in the garden for later are some good ideas.

Student Involvement

Launch a water conservation awareness campaign within the school. Encourage your teachers and classmates to discuss the benefits of conserving water and ways the students can get involved in using less water. A water conservation poster contest allows all of the kids to take part in spreading the news. Choose the best designs and have them turned into permanent signs to hang in the restrooms. The signs serve as a reminder for students to conserve water. Assigning students the role of water monitors during busy restroom times also puts the responsibility in the hands of the students. Teachers can enhance their hydrology lesson plans with relevant, local environmental information. Schools can also take part in community clean-up events, Earth Week celebrations, and water related field trips/events to enforce the importance of water quality for their students. Communities can also organize a tree-planting event on school grounds, or organize a school-ground naturalization project to create opportunities for outdoor learning through hands-on experience.

Talk to your school’s staff and fellow classmates:

All students, teachers, administrators, cooks and janitors should ask themselves if there is a another way to do their job that will minimize waste and impaired water quality. For example, chefs in schools can be informed and avoid pouring fat from cooking or any other type of fat, oil, or grease down the drain. School chefs can try to purchase sustainable meats for school lunch as it is important to think about the impact of factory farms on our water supply. These farms produce huge amounts of waste, which ends up harming the nearby water supplies. Whenever possible, buying sustainable meats instead of those produced at factory farms will make a huge difference on the schools indirect water usage. Administration can come together to put more recycling and trash cans around the school as well as outside to prevent litter build up. It is also important that a schools community avoid disposing of hazardous chemicals or cleaning agents down the sink or toilet. Hazardous chemicals in schools can be found in cleaning supplies, aerosol cans, paints, science labs (mercury), art classrooms, janitors’ storerooms. Classes can also try to use less toxic glues, paints, markers, and other materials.

Stormwater Runoff:

What is Storm water?

When an area is developed, a large amount of impervious area, such as buildings and pavement, is introduced. When it rains, the water that once soaked into the ground is then carried into your ponds and lakes. If it is not managed properly, it can also lead to flooding. Additionally, the water carries pollutants with it, which are eventually carried into your streams, ponds, lakes, and the ocean. Stormwater has a large impact on the water quality and health of your environment.

How can you reduce Stormwater runoff at your school?

  • Parents and teachers can prevent their vehicle’s oil and other dangerous pollutants from leaking onto the schools nearby streets. Rain washes these materials from the streets into the nearest storm drain which is eventually carried into lakes and streams. Car owners can recycle used motor oil, maintain their vehicle to minimize leakage, avoid dumping any engine fluids, such as motor oil, antifreeze, or transmission fluid into storm drains, a ditch, or onto the ground. It is also important to clean up any spills as soon as possible.
  •  Planting native trees, shrubs, flowers, and other plants on the school’s property will act as a sponge for the environment and naturally soak up any runoff that is on its way to local waterbodies or storm drains.  It is important to use native plants as they more tolerant of drought conditions and need less water.
  • Building a rain garden can improve water quality in your school’s community and reduce storm-water by collecting and filtering runoff.
  • Installing a rain barrel can collect and store rainwater from your school’s roof that would otherwise be lost to runoff or diverted to storm drains and streams polluting the water. A rain barrel collects and stores water for when you need it most, such as during periods of drought, to water plants, wash your car and more.
  • Be aware of your schools disposal system for hazardous products such as for cleaning or chemicals used in chemistry/science classes. Hazardous chemicals, such as toxic cleaning products and experimental products, contain harmful substances. These chemicals usually make their way into drains, sinks, and toilets, which end up polluting nearby water bodies and the humans and wildlife that depend on them. Schools and teachers can contact their local sanitation, public works, or environmental health department to find out about hazardous waste collection days and sites or local recycling drop off options.
  • Decrease concrete, asphalt and hard surfaces around the school to reduce runoff and try to create landscapes with vegetation, gravel or other porous materials that will absorb rainwater.
  • Fertilizers and Pesticides: Fertilizers enrich the soil with nutrients necessary for plant growth and are used on most school grounds. Chemical or synthetic fertilizers are manufactured using man-made materials are not the best option for the environment. Pesticides are used on most school grounds to kill unwanted weeds or plants, and keep mosquitos, ticks, and other insects away.  Both fertilizers and pesticides have a negative impact on the environment and can pollute local water bodies. They are also toxic to humans, wildlife, aquatic invertebrates, and plants.  Pesticides contain neurological and reproductive toxins, which are dangerous to both children and adults. If the chemicals are applied incorrectly, or are allowed to run off into streams or storm drains, they actually fertilize the water and result in algae blooms. Algae blooms remove oxygen from water which can cause tragic fish kills and severe environmental damage. Garden pesticides can harm humans and pets too, with kids and pregnant women being at the highest risk for exposure. A school can still have great looking lawns and gardens without using harmful chemicals that affect the community’s health, water and wildlife. Schools can opt for more natural alternatives to chemical fertilizers such as composted manure, fish emulsions, alfalfa pellets, bone meal, and cottonseed meal. There are also many great sustainable alternatives to using chemical pesticides. It is important that schools get their soils tested, understand what products they are buying, consider alternatives, use the lawn products correctly, and dispose of the lawn care products efficiently so that they do not ultimately harm local water bodies. Schools should never dump leftover products down the drain or in the trash, as they will be carried directly to creeks. Schools should store leftover chemicals in a safe place until they can dispose of them at a hazardous waste drop off event, or give leftover products to other schools.
  • If your school is close to any streams or rivers, consider planting grass buffer strips or trees along the banks to protect water quality and prevent contaminants, such as fertilizers and pesticides used at your school, from entering the environment and traveling to other locations.

In summary, a school should think about controlling and reducing water runoff from its site, consume fresh water as efficiently as possible and recover and reuse gray water to the extent feasible because basic efficiency measures can reduce a school’s water use by 30% or more. It is also important to note that schools who provide educational opportunities create very valuable opportunities for hands-on learning and the potential to instill environmental values in future generations. These reductions and implementations help the environment, locally and regionally and lower a school’s operating expenses. The technologies and techniques used to conserve water – especially landscaping, education and outreach, water treatment, and recycling strategies – can be used to help instruct students about ecology and the environment.

 

Get Ready for A Day Without Water!

No, we’re not shutting off the pipes. CWEP and our member counties and municipalities are gearing up for A Day Without Water, an annual awareness event run by the Value of Water Campaign, or VWC. The VWC works to educate people about how much water they use and how we can get smarter about our water usage so that “a day without water” can be a pithy title, not reality.

Wanna get started on the fun? Head over to the water calculator to see how much water your household uses in a day. The results may surprise you! And if you do find the number as shocking as we did, no need to worry! The calculator gives you tips and tricks on how to save water — and the planet.

If you’re looking for a more hands-on approach and want to better understand how the water from your faucet gets there, consider booking a tour at a water and wastewater treatment plant in Raleigh, Durham, or Hillsborough. You can also check with your local plant for their tour options. Tours are free of charge and range from 1 to 3 hours. It’s a great after school activity! Make sure to act fast, however, as tour requests typically must be made at least two weeks in advance (so if you want to go on A Day Without Water, you’ll need to request a tour by Thursday, September 28th!).

We’ll be posting in the coming weeks about more ways you can get involved, but if you just can’t wait to learn more, you can check out more information who’s participating and the event itself on the website.

You can learn more about the VWC here.

Do you know your Watershed Address?

Everyone has an address. It starts with your name, then your house by number, then the road you live on, then the town, and finally the state you live in. Each part of your address is a larger area. Watersheds work the same way. Each small stream is part of a larger river system. Everybody lives in a watershed!

watersheds_trace

Smaller streams in the upper reaches of a watershed flow downhill to form a larger watershed or river basin. Trace your hand to see how small streams (fingers) flow together to form a larger water body like a lake (hand) which flows into a river (wrist and arm).

Watersheds Are Handy

A watershed is simply the area of land that drains to a body of water, so even a small creek in your backyard has a watershed. Small watersheds make up larger watersheds, which in turn form larger river basins, which may drain to the largest water body of all…the ocean!

Here’s a “hands-on” activity to help you visualize this concept!

  1. Trace your hand and wrist.
  2. Imagine your fingertips are high mountain tops. Picture rain falling on them, forming a small stream of water that flows down each finger. Also picture “groundwater” seeping up to the earth’s surface at each of your fingertips and adding water to the small stream or watershed.
  3. These five small watersheds flow into each other as they run down to your hand. Cup your palm—together the five small watersheds form one larger watershed.
  4. Imagine this large watershed joined by other large watersheds. Soon they flow together as one “river” down your wrist.
  5. The river continues its journey to your lower arm, your larger upper arm, and eventually flows into the largest part of you: your body or the largest water body on earth…the “ocean.”

Cool Fact: Your body is approximately 75% water, and so is the Earth!

Watersheds Are In Your Hands

Watersheds reflect how people treat their land and water. Healthy watersheds reflect human communities that value and respect the natural resources that sustain them. Clean water is the result of their individual and collective efforts to prevent water pollution.

Take Action

Today, the greatest threat to watersheds in our communities and our country is stormwater pollution! Give clean water a hand by practicing clean water stewardship every day. Here’s more information about stormwater in our daily lives.

Additional Resources

EPA’s Nonpoint Source Pollution pages for kids.

Give Water A Hand is a national watershed education program that can help you find out how to get involved in local environmental projects.

What is a Watershed?

A watershed is an area of land where all water drains to a particular waterbody, usually a stream, river, or the ocean. Watersheds cover the entire land surface of the earth. Watersheds contain homes, neighborhoods, cities, forests, farmland, and more. Watersheds come in all shapes and sizes and can even cross state lines.

The graphic above shows how water travels over a landscape and eventually forms streams and rivers. In a natural environment, this water would be pretty clean; however, when rain hits an impervious surface it creates stormwater runoff, which picks up pollutants and enters the nearest creek or stream. This creek or stream will join others to form larger streams, which join others to flow into larger rivers. Just like streams, smaller watersheds join together to form larger watersheds. That means any pollution that enters our stormwater can transported throughout an entire watershed.

All of us live in a watershed – let’s keep them clean! Use this EPA tool to Surf Your Watershed and find out more about how stormwater, runoff, and streams connect to form watersheds in your area.