Introducing Taylor Weddington

Nice to meet you! My name is Taylor Weddington and I am an AmeriCorps service member serving as the Stormwater Education Coordinator for the Clean Water Education Partnership (CWEP). I recently relocated to Raleigh from my hometown of Wilmington, NC and I am excited to start my journey with TJCOG in the beautiful Triangle Area.

This past May, I graduated from the University of North Carolina Wilmington with a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science and a concentration in conservation. Throughout my studies, I learned about the complexity of environmental issues and how important equitable access to environmental services and education are to the wellbeing of our communities. I first became involved in environmental outreach through an internship with the North Carolina Division of Water Resources, where I focused on creating digital outreach materials for watershed restoration grants. This experience opened my eyes to water management projects in North Carolina and to the abundance of organizations working together to improve water quality.

To accelerate my knowledge of water restoration, I studied Water Resource Management and Sustainable Practices at the Universidad San Ignacio de Loyola in Cusco, Peru this past summer. Comparing the environmental issues and strategies used in Peru and in North Carolina was intriguing and left me with valuable insight.  Although many issues stem from very different and complex sources, I noticed the solutions used in both places had an element of education and direct involvement with communities to instill behavior change. By giving current and future generations knowledge to enhance water quality and mitigate environmental issues, they are given the power to protect and advocate for what is important to them. This is a vital strategy to promote resiliency for all people around the world.

I am thankful that I will be part of CWEPs effort to ensure more people throughout partner communities are being exposed to direct and meaningful stormwater education, and to be part of a program that gives North Carolinians the tools to remain resilient.

Get outside!

Warm spring and summer days are fast approaching! Here at CWEP, we can’t wait to get back out in the waterways across our beautiful state. Clean water is fun for everyone! Check out CWEP’s interactive map to find and visit waterways near you.

Whatever it is you love to do, we hope to see you out there!

There are lots of fun ways to engage with our waterways!

  • Greenways are great for walking, jogging, and biking.
  • Your town may have dedicated mountain biking trails, which can be fun for the whole family! Check out your town website or the Mountain Bike Project for more info.
  • County Parks may offer kayak or canoe rentals, which is a great way to see aquatic wildlife up close.
  • If you’re interested in birding, apps like MerlinBirdID or iNaturalist can help you identify birds by photo or sound recording.
  • For more information on boating access, visit the NC Wildlife Resources Commission website.
  • Ranger programs at County and State Parks can help you connect with your local history and wildlife!

Check the town or park website for information on parking, fees, operating hours, and any additional info you may need. Fishing often requires a license or permit. Please check and adhere to any posted rules and practice safe recreation behavior!

If your favorite park is missing from our map, let us know on the Get Outside page!

Snow is stormwater

Here in North Carolina, our snowstorms (or often sleetstorms) are few and far between. As such, we may not think about snow as stormwater – and snowmelt as stormwater runoff. Though the risk for flooding is lower, transportation of pollutants is still an important consideration when preparing your home for inclement weather. Importantly, we tend to introduce a new pollutant into the mix when it might snow: salt.

Salt can come in many forms (think table salt, rock salt, brine) and with different chemical constituents, but the common denominator among salts we use to address ice concerns is that they contain chloride: sodium chloride (NaCl), magnesium chloride (MgCl2), and calcium chloride (CaCl2) most commonly. Chloride is of concern because it does not biodegrade, nor do organisms uptake and repurpose it naturally. This means all of the salt we apply – to our roads, sidewalks and driveways – is going to end up in the surrounding environment.

There are a few different ways that these chloride salts make their way into our ecosystems and waterways. Driving on salted roads can spray the salt onto vegetation and soils adjacent to the roadways, which can impact the growth of vegetation – altering the habitat and impacting native species. The chloride can then migrate into groundwater, which can degrade municipal and personal water supplies over time. When the snow melts, those salts can get carried into the stormwater system. In places like North Carolina, with Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4), these salts are delivered directly to our streams.

High concentrations of salt can be extremely detrimental to aquatic life, both flora and fauna. Thankfully in North Carolina, we do not have to apply salt frequently, but even occasional shocks to the system can hurt sensitive wildlife. In particular, macroinvertebrates are sensitive to increased salinity – and reduced macroinvertebrate population and diversity impacts the whole aquatic food web.

The brine applied to roads has a much lower rate of runoff than plain rock salt, which means that brine impacts ecosystems a bit less. Brine is typically 20-30% salt. Hydrating the salt in advance helps it stick to the road. Though the salt will still enter the environment, the overall chlorine measured in adjacent soils and waterways is significantly lower when compared to levels seen with rock salt. It is also worth noting that salt, particularly rock salt, is corrosive to both infrastructure and cars.

Some states are starting to use beet juice in their road brine to reduce the total salt load, while maintaining the benefits of treating the roadways. The beet juice is water-soluble, non-corrosive, and created as a byproduct of agricultural processing. As a relatively new technology, scientists are still researching possible ecosystem impacts of the use of beet juice on aquatic organisms.

There are many reasons to consider alternative solutions to putting rock salt down on your property. You may want to apply an inert substance like sand (which will not dissolve), to increase traction without impacting water quality. Some websites may recommend coffee grounds for a similar application, however the nutrients in coffee grounds may cause adverse impacts to water quality. Salt only helps melt snow at temperatures around freezing, so it may not be particularly helpful for your residence. Consider investing in a good snow shovel, enlisting the help of friends, kids, or neighbors, and only clearing when you need to. Snowstorms are rare here – if you are able, take the time to enjoy it!

Fall Rainscaping – Leave the Leaves

It’s that time of year again! Your lawn is soon to be blanketed with a bed of fallen leaves. Before you rake them up, have you ever considered leaving the leaves? There are actually many reasons to leave them be. Here’s just a few!

You may want to leave the leaves on your lawn because many animals rely on leaf cover to provide habitat during the fall and winter months. Think of the leaves as a nice warm home for lots of important insects and invertebrates. Even butterflies and moths winter in ground cover. Maybe you don’t love bugs, but many beautiful birds rely on those very creepy-crawly critters for food. When we remove the leaf cover, birds lose that food source – we’ve basically gotten rid of their grocery store.

Also, leaves are pretty much free mulch! They provide nutrients for your lawn, and some ground cover that can suppress weeds. If you don’t want to leave the leaves all over your lawn, you can rake them to a specific spot to use like mulch, or behind your house where they’re less visible, but still providing important ecosystem support.

Finally, did you know that yard waste, including fallen leaves, can also be a stormwater pollutant? If your local government policy is to rake loose leaves along the curb and it rains before someone comes to pick up them up, they can get washed into the nearby storm drains. This can clog storm drain systems and lead to flooding events which can also cause erosion. If the leaves make it out to local streams, the influx of decaying organic material can contribute to a spike in nutrients in the waterway. Though this may seem beneficial, it can throw the delicate ecosystem balance out of whack, contributing to algae blooms that can harm small aquatic organisms.

This year, try leaving the leaves*! For ourselves, birds, bugs, and the chance to see the beauty of nature’s ability to renew and recycle.

*If you live in an area with policies that require you to rake your leaves, look up your local government’s yard waste preference of how to bag/bin/collect these leaves for pickup, and try to keep them out of the storm drain!

For more reasons to leave the leaves, check out the New Hope Audubon Society or the National Wildlife Federation!

Introducing Caroline Wofford

Hello everyone! My name is Caroline Wofford and I am an AmeriCorps service member serving this year as the Stormwater Education Coordinator for the Clean Water Education Partnership (CWEP). I was born and raised in Chapel Hill and spent much of my childhood playing in the creeks and streams of central North Carolina, so these issues are near and dear to my heart.

I recently graduated from Scripps College in Claremont, California with a Bachelor’s in Chemistry, and a focus in atmospheric and environmental chemistry. During my time at college, I was able to deepen my understanding of environmental science, while also learning also how science, policy, and human behavior come together to inform how the environment and natural resources are utilized. Throughout my education, I have often felt that science is inaccessible, and that there is a lack of effective means to communicate scientific concepts and findings to a non-technical audience. This hinders both general public understanding and effective evidence-based policies. I want to help get people of all ages excited about science as a way of understanding the world, rather than just a subject in school.

I am thrilled to be back home in the Piedmont, working to bridge this gap through clean water education. There’s so much we can do to help keep our water clean, especially regarding stormwater pollution. I can’t wait to work with communities across the state to protect our water, so all North Carolinians can enjoy a healthy environment for generations to come!