Racial equity, stormwater pollution, and community watershed education: An Interview with Keshi Satterwhite, ECWA

Keshi Satterwhite has been doing outreach and engagement for the Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association since 2019. CWEP education and outreach coordinator Hannah sat down with Keshi to talk about her passion, leadership, mentorship, and hope for the future of the water sector.

Our interview with Keshi kicks off our Water Leaders Profile Series, where we will be interviewing water leaders from across the CWEP region. Know someone in a CWEP community who is leading the water sector? E-mail us at cwep@tjcog.org to suggest our next interviewee.

Discover Aquatic Life in Winter

Winter in North Carolina means shorter days and colder nights, a time when you might be spending more time indoors or bundling up to brave the drop in temperature.  But what does winter mean for our aquatic animal neighbors? You might be surprised to discover that the winter is still an active time for many critters. 

Macroinvertebrates

Water gets cold more slowly than air, which means fish, macroinvertebrates, and other aquatic creatures remain active even as the air temperature drops. You may still find mayfly, dragonfly, stonefly and other macroinvertebrates when sampling in the winter. Some people even prefer to look for these tiny animals in this season because they move slower and spend more time hiding under leaves and rocks.

Stoneflies overwinter as aquatic nymphs and continue growing even as water temperatures approach freezing. (photo courtesy of thecatchandthehatch.com)

Get involved: Macroinvertebrates are important water quality indicators and can help us assess stream health. Join or create an NC Stream Watch group to collect and submit macroinvertebrate data to a statewide citizen science effort! To learn more about the importance of clean water for macroinvertebrates, check out this video by the town of Chapel Hill’s stormwater department that talks about macroinvertebrates and dissolved oxygen

Salamanders

Many salamander species are still active during North Carolina winters. You can spot red-back salamanders, lead-back salamanders, and maybe even the notoriously elusive marbled salamanders under logs in wet woodland areas. They are especially active during warm and rainy winter nights. Marbled salamanders breed in the winter, laying their eggs in ephemeral (temporary) woodland ponds. 

The beautiful Marbled Salamander is the state salamander of North Carolina.

Get Involved: Interested in going winter herping? Check out The Wild Report’s video on going winter salamander hunting in the Piedmont.  download the iNaturalist app to help with species ID and track the salamanders and other animals that you find along the way! If you are a new iNaturalist user, you can reference this previous blog post for some helpful tips and tricks.

Water Birds

Winter is a time that many birds migrate to North Carolina to overwinter. Buffleheads, pied-billed grebes, coots, ring-necked ducks and hooded mergansers are some of the inland waterfowl you might spot on a nearby pond or lake. If you live on the coast, you might spot  gannets, loons and wrens near the shore.  Some bird species even mate and lay eggs in the winter! If you listen closely, you might be able to hear the nasal sounding mating call of a male woodcock on a mild January night. Woodcocks live in shrubby forests and grasslands near water. 

Male buffleheads are easily identified by their large white crown. (photo courtesy of  allaboutbirds.org)

Get Involved: Ready to do some winter birding? Be sure to download the E-Bird app before you go. E-bird allows you to easily track, record, and ID the birds you find. To read more about winter birding in North Carolina, check out this page on the Bird Watcher’s Digest.

These animals need clean water to survive or thrive (like us!) Help protect critters by doing your part to keep stormwater clean.

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.

Program Spotlight: OWASA’s Care to Share

Access to clean water is especially important for sanitation and survival during a pandemic, when frequent hand washing and spending more time at home have become a part of daily routine. Since the onset of COVID-19 in North Carolina and across the globe, Orange Water and Sewer Authority (OWASA) has seen a 73% increase in past due water bills as well as an increase in household water usage. While OWASA has currently suspended disconnections for non-payments, they anticipate that customers without a steady or adequate source of income will continue to struggle with on-time payments moving forward.

OWASA’s Care to Share program provides water bill payment assistance through a partnership with the Inter-Faith Council for Social Service (IFC). Each month, paying customers have the option to add a few extra dollars to their bill that are donated to the Care to Share program. IFC helps to identify households who may benefit from Care to Share and distribute the collected funds to participants. Currently, about 5% of OWASA customers contribute monthly donations to the Care to Share program.

Care to Share (previously called Taste of Hope) has existed in some form since 1997 and has served as a model for other communities and utilities across the Triangle region to institute similar programs. As the need for water bill assistance increases, there is also a push to provide more funding and structure for water bill assistance programs at both the state and national government level.

OWASA customers can sign up to donate through their water bill here. Anyone can also make a direct donation to the Care to Share program through IFC here.

learn more at OWASA’s website: https://www.owasa.org/help-my-neighbor-care-to-share/

Biking the Watershed

During this time of social distancing and working from home, we have had some beautiful weather! A few weekends ago, I ventured out to explore the Neuse River Basin via 25 mile bikeride. As a new resident of North Carolina, I was impressed with Raleigh’s greenway system which follows several tributaries of the Neuse.

I began my journey along the Crabtree Creek Trail. Crabtree Creek starts in Cary and flows through Lake Crabtree County Park, Umstead State Park and sections of North Raleigh before eventually joining the Neuse near Knightdale. The Crabtree flows through a rapidly developing area in a historic flood plain, which means that even light rains can cause the creek to flood. Evidence of this along the Crabtree Creek Trail include several washouts where sediment has been deposited.

The Crabtree Creek Trail joins with the Neuse River Trail at Anderson Point Park. This was a busy section of trail due to proximity to parking and residential areas. I took a quick rest stop at Anderson Point Park to enjoy the view.

The Neuse River Trail joins up with the Walnut Creek Trail where the Walnut Creek flows into the Neuse River. This section of trail was the most adventurous and scenic, featuring several roller-coaster like bridges and boardwalks that run through the Walnut Creek Wetland Center, Lake Johnson Park, and Worthdale Park. A few lookouts along the way are great places to stop and search for waterfowl, turtles, and other wildlife.

The last section of my bikeride was on the Rocky Branch Trail, which weaves amoung neighborhoods, wooded areas, and more urban stretches. This trail takes you through Dix Park and ends with a gorgeous view of the Raleigh skyline.

This short weekend adventure helped me see my watershed with new eyes. I gained a new appreciation for the role that greenways play in protecting our state’s water resources, connecting folks to outdoor spaces, and managing stormwater. If you’re interested in learning more about the positive benefits of greenways, you can explore The Impact of Greenways in the Triangle document written by the East Coast Greenway Alliance.

How have you been exploring your watershed during social distancing? Drop a comment in the box to the left to share your story with us.

Be Good to the Critters: Don’t Litter!

February flowers bring March showers, and March showers sweep litter into our streams. This means spring is the perfect season to get involved in litter prevention, awareness and education in your community. Here are 5 ways you can get involved:

Volunteer at a litter clean up. Clean Jordan Lake, Keep Durham Beautiful, and Wake County Waste and Recycling are a few examples of organizations who host spring clean ups in the Triangle. 

Host your own creek clean up. Not sure if your community has a clean up? Create your own! Stream Watch is a state-wide community science initiative where groups plan two creek clean ups/water quality monitoring events per year. Contact our stormwater education specialist at cwep@tjcog.org for help picking a safe site, learning how to use the online surveys, and assistance with hosting your first event.

Learn about what happens to your waste. Did you know that Durham and Orange Counties truck their trash over 90 miles away to Montgomery County? Find out what happens to waste in your community by contacting your local government and planning a field trip to your landfill or recycling facility, or check out their website to see if there’s a video.

Promote litter prevention in schools. In Baltimore Maryland, a school-wide ban on styrofoam started by 2 high school students eventually led to a state-wide ban. Organizations like Don’t Waste Durham encourage K-12 education on litter prevention through action projects and volunteering. 

Educate yourself so that you can educate others. Chatham County Solid Waste and Recycling just rolled out a new “Don’t Waste It” curriculum for formal and non-formal K-12 educators. Head over to the department page to find out about upcoming workshops or request one near you. 

Do you have other ideas about how to prevent waste in your community? We would love to hear from you! Drop a comment in the box below or contact CWEP for more information.IMG-7442CWEP member Hannah helping out at a Clean Jordan Lake cleanup this past fall.

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!

CWEP’s Stormwater Education Campaign Giveaway!

Earlier this month, CWEP kicked off the Spring one click give-away digital campaign. Through partnership with Spectrum, our aired 30 second PSA video will re direct traffic to our website. This is a great incentive for environmentally-minded viewers to learn more about how to keep our waters clean and safe by heading to our website to learn more! The campaign will run until July, which is when winners will be announced. You can view this 30 second video here.

We would like to thank our local and green minded sponsors which include Spiffy, Green To Go, Fillaree and The Produce Box. Without you, this wouldn’t be possible! We are confident we will reach a large number of participants and encourage the public to view and interact with our stormwater education message as well as learn more about our valuable sponsors!

You can read more about the campaign and learn how to get involved here!

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7 Tips to Reduce Stormwater Pollution This Spring!

With over 10 million people living in the state of North Carolina, state residents’ day to day activities have an impact on water quality. Stormwater is surface runoff that does not soak into the ground during precipitation events (drizzle, rain, snow, and hail). As stormwater flows over neighborhoods, businesses, and streets, it picks up the trash, cigarette butts, pesticides, motor oils and other contaminants accumulated on hard surfaces and deposits them into our local creeks, rivers, and the ocean UNTREATED! Stormwater runoff is the #1 source of water pollution and the biggest threat to water quality in the state.

So what can you do? Here are some easy ways you can improve water quality this spring!

1. Don’t Over-Apply Fertilizer! Why?

Premature Plant Death

Over-application of synthetic or chemicals fertilizers can increase soil salinity and root burn in the long run, which may result in your plants not being able to properly absorb water and nutrients in the soil, leading to their untimely demise. Overuse of synthetic fertilizer can also disrupt soil chemistry and actually do damage to soils.

Harmful to Aquatic Life and Humans

When excess fertilizer gets into our storm drain system and travels into our waterways and oceans, algae blooms can form resulting in a loss of oxygen in the water. Algae blooms pose a direct threat to aquatic animals, which need to breathe just like we do!

A well-maintained, natural lawn care system requires little to no fertilizer. Talk to your local garden center about how to care for your landscape and if you must fertilize, what products you can purchase that are organic and environmentally friendly.

2. Sweep, Don’t Hose!

Sweep around your house and driveway vs. hosing to clean away the accumulated dirt and debris. When you sweep, pick up the debris and place it into the appropriate trash receptacle. Potentially impactful items and debris picked up and placed in the trash are less likely to get into the storm drain system and degrade water quality.

3. Take Your Car to A Car Wash

Spring is a great time for cleaning up inside and outside the home. However, when you spruce up your car, think of going to a local car wash vs. hosing it down at home. This actually saves water and reduces runoff to our waterways that contains soap and debris.

A standard garden hose uses about 10 gallons per minute. If you wash your car for 10 minutes, you might consume 100 gallons of water. While hosing with an automatic shut-off valve may save more water, it’s still recommended to take your car to a commercial car wash that can properly dispose of harmful runoff (debris, oil, harmful soaps, etc.). Commercial car washes also have sophisticated reclamation systems that enable them to re-use water, so they only expend approximately 9-15 gallons of water during any given wash cycle.

4. Plant Native Plants

Native plants are the foundation of a natural ecosystem. They provide biodiversity and give critters ample food and habitat, creating a sustainable ecosystem in your yard. Native plants also thrive in their “home” environment, requiring less water to thrive. Check out this list of North Carolina’s recommended native species here!

5. Make Your Landscape Water-Friendly

Consider installing green infrastructure practices like permeable pavers, rain barrels, French drains, bioswales, or reducing lawn areas altogether. When you use these practices to control the flow and sinking of water in your landscape, you’re helping to keep toxins and debris out of the storm drain system as well as capture water naturally — a WIN-WIN for you and the environment. Check out these Green Infrastructure Ideas, click here.

6. Scoop Your Pet’s Poop!

With warmer weather comes more walks with your fuzzy friend in the outdoors. Always remember to clean up after your pet’s waste and place it in the trash. Pet waste contains harmful bacteria that will wash into our waterways after a rainfall- which there is plenty of in the spring!

7. Drain Swimming Pool Safely

If you have a pool, drain it only when a test kit does not detect chlorine levels. Whenever possible, drain your pool or spa into the sanitary sewer system, where it will be treated. Also, store pool and spa chemicals in a covered area to prevent leaks and spills to the stormwater system.

Durham Creek Week 2019 Dog Pledge!

What is Creek Week?

Creek Week is a time to discover and clean up our local streams through recreational, educational, and volunteer opportunities! It has been celebrated in Durham since 2009, with 2,783 volunteers collecting 152,798 pounds of litter to date. Please refer to CWEP’s Creek Week page to learn more about Creek Week happenings throughout the state of North Carolina this coming March!

Did you know?

Did you know that pet waste contains bacteria and parasites that can pollute our waterways? Pet waste also contains high levels of nutrients that can enter our streams and lakes, contributing to harmful algae growth and invasive aquatic weeds. This harms the freshwater organisms, and produces toxins dangerous to humans and animals.

For Durham Creek Week 2019, stop by Piney Wood Dog Park and have your four-legged friend sign a pledge promising that he/she will pick up their waste! In exchange for signing the pledge, your dog will receive a copy of the pledge, some dog treats, and a biodegradable dog waste bag! To learn more about all of the events taking place during Creek Week 2019, check out Keep Durham Beautiful’s events page here.

Organized by: Triangle J Council of Governments, Clean Water Education Partnership. Contact Blair Frantz with questions at bfrantz@tjcog.org

Canines for Clean Water