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.
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.
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:
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 firstname.lastname@example.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.CWEP member Hannah helping out at a Clean Jordan Lake cleanup this past fall.
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:
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!
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.
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 email@example.com
Native plants are trees, shrubs, flowers, grasses and other plants which occur naturally to a particular region. These plants provide a less labor intensive and water efficient landscape which is beneficial to commercial businesses, home owners, and the environment. Conversely, an invasive plant is an exotic species that has the ability to thrive and spread aggressively outside its natural range. Plants are the first line of defense when it comes to erosion control and stormwater management. Understanding plant species’ susceptibility to water-level fluctuations and landscape pollutants will enable better stormwater detention treatment and aesthetically pleasing environments.
Native plants, in rain gardens and in landscaping in general, are preferred because they are best adapted to soil and temperature conditions in a particular area. Because they have adapted to local conditions, native plants require no fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides, or watering (once established). Native plants are also resistant to most pests and diseases and provide food and shelter of native animals. In regions with heavy clay soil, deep rooted native plants can break-up the soil better than typical varieties of lawn grass and improve clay soil’s permeability, ultimately acting as a green stormwater alternative. Trapping localized stormwater on site through the use of native plants can ensure percolation and increased filtration of nutrients entering the ground water. The extensive and deep root systems of native plants (see image below) slow down runoff, reduce soil erosion along river and stream banks, and absorb dirty water before it gets into the nearby waterways. Greater infiltration from native plants results in better pollutant filtering and more water replenishing the aquifer- ultimately reducing flood water and stormwater impacts. In summary, utilizing native plants and trees in your business or school landscaping allows for short and long term positive effects on stormwater runoff quantity and quality. Restoring your business, household, or school with native vegetation is one of the best things to do for the environment while also saving time and money.
The Audubon Society of North Carolina has recently expanded its native plant guide to help many cities have awareness of what they are planting. Birds, bees and butterflies are also getting a little help from Audubon North Carolina. The nonprofit conservation organization, which has offices in Corolla, Boone, Wilmington and Chapel Hill, announced Oct. 11, in time for fall planting, that its free, downloadable guide which helps identify the best plants for wildlife by habitat has been expanded from 400 to 692 native and cultivated plants that thrive in North Carolina. Everyone from home gardeners to educational institutions to landscapers to businesses are adding native-friendly plants to their backyards. The list is a single source of recommended bird- and pollinator-friendly plants that can be filtered by habitat, food source type, animals benefited, wetland status and more. Every species thrives in a different region and this resource helps planters choose a spot for the plant where it will thrive. The wetland status option is important for many city planners and stormwater managers who want to reduce flooding and stormwater impacts in their communities.
To find native plants in your area, Audubon North Carolina provides a terrific ZIP code locator at www.nc.audubon.org where people enter their ZIP code and get not only a list of recommended bird-friendly plants native to their area, but also their nearest Audubon chapter and a list of area businesses that sell native plants. By using the ZIP code locator, gardeners, city planners, landscapers, etc. can refine the list of plants suitable for their specific area.
CWEP encourages North Carolina residents to ask their favorite garden centers to carry more native plants so they’ll become more readily available to everyone. It is also recommended to assess and learn about what is already growing in your yard as this can serve as a starting point for your native journey! The updated Audubon North Carolina list will continue to serve as a helpful resource for communities to determine which plants are native and which are not.
As we come into cooler, winter months, it’s time to start thinking about any additional maintenance that needs to be done with the rain water harvesting systems you may have!
What is a rain barrel?
A rain barrel collects and stores rainwater from your roof through a drain (gutter) system for future use such as watering lawns and gardens. Rain barrels come in a variety of sizes, but a 55 gallon container is the most common size. Rain barrels can be added to any building with gutters and downspouts. You can construct a rain garden yourself, or purchase one already made- but they all serve the same purpose: to collect rainwater and decrease the amount of stormwater runoff that leaves your property. Using rain barrels is one way to decrease your household’s impact on local waterways and to become a good steward of the local watershed.
Why use rain barrels?
The average rainfall of one inch within a 24-hour period can produce more than 700 gallons of water that runs off the roof of a typical house. Much of this water runs from gutters onto surfaces that do not allow water to soak into the ground. These are called impervious surfaces and include concrete, asphalt, and compacted soil. Even commonly used sod has a very low infiltration rate and can be a major cause of increased runoff. As it flows, runoff collects and transports soil, pet waste, salt, pesticides, fertilizer, oil and grease, litter and other pollutants. This water drains directly into nearby creeks, streams and rivers, without receiving treatment at sewage plants. Polluted stormwater contaminates local waterways. It can harm plants, fish and wildlife, while degrading the quality of water.
How to maintain your rain barrel?
Rain barrels need regular maintenance, similar to other features of your property. It is especially important to remember to drain water before every storm and to remove debris and sediment from your barrel regularly.
✔Check the entire system (gutters, debris filter, pipe, spittings, spigot, etc) to ensure the barrel is functioning properly.
✔Place gutter guards and/or screens on top of roof downspouts and on top of the barrel to prevent leaves and sediment from entering the rain barrel.
✔Remove leaves and other debris from the screen at the top of the barrel, the overflow pipe, and the roof gutters.
✔Regularly use water in your barrel between rain events to make sure there is room to collect rainwater during the next storm. Drain your rain barrel before the winter season!
✔If your rain barrel has a filter screen, make sure it does not have holes and securely fastened to keep mosquitoes out.
✔Unless your rain barrel is made out of a material specifically designed for freezing temperatures, disconnect it during the winter to avoid damage. Around thanksgiving, disconnect the rain barrel from your downspouts, empty and wash the barrel, and store it upside down. Re-connect your rain barrel to the downspouts around April Fool’s Day.
✔Open the rain barrel spigot if you are going to be away from your home for a long time during the holidays- make sure it will drain away from your foundation.
✔Clean the barrel using a non toxic substance such as vinegar to remove residue or algae.
✔If you find mosquitoes in your rain barrel, you may add a quarter dunk monthly depending on the size of your rain barrel.
X Don’t leave rain in your rain barrel for long periods of time.
XDon’t drink the water in your rain barrel or use the water inside your home or for your pets. This water should be used as non-potable water.
XDon’t let kids play in or around rain barrels.
X Don’t forget to re connect your rain barrel after the winter season.
XDon’t spray the water directly on vegetables or plants, as it may contain bacteria from the roof.
X Don’t let the barrel foundation become unstable or tip over.
Who is responsible for this maintenance?
As the property owner, YOU are responsible for all maintenance of your rain barrels.
Why is it important to maintain your rain barrel?
An unmaintained rain barrel may lead to problems including:
Overflow flooding and erosion near the foundation
Become clogged and not allow rainwater to pass into or out of the barrel
Become a breeding place for insects
Cause ice dams in the winter if not disconnected
By maintaining your rain barrel, you are doing your part to conserve rainwater and protect your local streams. You can prolong the life of your rain barrel and save money on maintenance costs by regularly maintaining and inspecting the rain barrel to ensure everything is running smoothly!
Stormwater runoff can come in many forms, including melting snow. Winter snow often brings a unique feel to North Carolina as it doesn’t happen often: making for beautiful photos and lots of family fun. However, it’s not long before the sun comes out to expose a host of issues created by the melting snow.
Heavy rains sweeping across your yard and driveway carry pollution and high volumes of water into our nearby streams, lakes, and other waterways. Melting snow does the same things. Both rain and snow melt can seriously impair North Carolina waters when they travel over the land in our developed communities.
In winter, melting snow actually causes a few unique stormwater problems. Because the ground is often frozen at the surface, melting snow can’t infiltrate into the soil the way a light or moderate rain would be able to. So even a small amount of snow can cause localized flooding on your property. When snow builds up over several small storm events without melting in between, it can turn into large winter storm impacts when it finally does melt – leading to potential community wide flooding events. In both cases, that standing and flowing water on the ground is picking up all kinds of debris, pollutants (especially deicing salts and chemicals), and litter that will find their way into nearby streams.
When shoveling/plowing snow this season, pay attention to where you place it. Try to pile snow in areas where it will have a chance to infiltrate, not runoff!
Winter Stormwater Pollution Prevention Tips
Start shoveling early! The more snow you remove, the less salt and sand you’ll need. Below are some do’s and don’ts when shoveling or plowing snow
Snow and Your Rain Garden
Normal snow accumulation does not pose a threat to rain gardens, so there is no need to shovel a rain garden. However, heavy snow loads can weigh down and saturate your garden and hurt plants. Pile snow uphill from the rain garden so when the snow melts the rain garden can do what it is designed to do.
Pile snow in locations with the most opportunity to infiltrate into the ground.
Pile snow in areas where water does not pond.
Clear away any snow that may have been thrown onto the storm drains
Clear your downspouts to allow melting roof snow to flow and not collect at your foundation.
Pay special attention to places that are eroding during snow melt, and make a plan to improve these areas in spring using plants that can slow and stop erosion, like native grasses and meadow plants or native trees and shrubs.
Do not pile snow on top of storm drains or near water bodies and wetlands.
Do not pile snow onto rain gardens or bio retention areas.
Do not over use de-icing chemicals and salts, and avoid spreading around sensitive areas like waterways and your private well.
Tips to Avoid Using Salt as a De-icer
More salt does not equal more melting snow. Follow product instructions when spreading deicing material and give it time to work. Sweep up any material remaining after the snow/ice melts.