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Featured Art from Streets to Creeks

Thank you to all who submitted to our stormwater art contest which ran from August 5th to September 5th. Over the fall and winter months, we will be featuring submissions as our website headers. Maddie, our week 2 winner, took the photo that is featured as our new website background!

Winners will receive CWEP giveaways including a set of reusable straws. Check out our virtual gallery below to see the artwork submissions. 

Below are the announcements of our winners! Congrats to all of you. Scroll through to see photos of the artwork and descriptions from the artists of what inspired their piece.

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.

The Importance of Native Plants

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.

native roots

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.

 

 

What lessons could other communities learn from Charlotte?

Two major hurricanes hit North Carolina in the last month, and while the damage was severe to some parts of the state, damage from flooding in the Charlotte area was less than it would have been a decade ago. This is due to many years of hard work and preparation in the making.

It all started in 1995 after Tropical Storm Jerry. Charlotte homes flooded and the storm led to $5 million in property damage. However, as time passed, residents and local government officials forgot how bad the flooding had been.

It wasn’t until Hurricane Danny in 1997 that major flooding hit Charlotte again. The major difference from the ‘95 flood to the ‘97 flood was there was a number of homes that flooded, yet, they were outside of Charlotte’s mapped floodplain. This raised doubts about the accuracy of Charlotte’s floodplain maps. In addition to all of this, came pressure from people who lived in neighborhoods that flooded for the second time in three years. It was clear that local support for a new, proactive approach to flooding had to be a priority.

The first step Charlotte took was buying out homes that were in floodplains- areas that are prone to flooding because they’re right by creeks or rivers that are prone to flooding. With federal grants from FEMA, as well as funding from the county, Charlotte initiated a home buyout program. Since 1999, the program has bought out more than 400 homes in floodplains and demolished them- ultimately restoring creek and river banks over time. All in all, the buyout program cost more than $71 million. However, the buyouts have saved $27 million in property damages, according to the county. During Hurricane Florence alone, the program saved $1.9 million.

It is important to note that buying out houses and tearing them down isn’t sustainable in the long-term by itself. Stormwater flood sensors were also placed at rivers across the city. This sensor sends a beam down to the water, which then determines the distance between the sensor and the water. All of those sensors make up FINS, or the Flood Information & Notification System which track flooding in real time. Once the water elevates to where it’s going to breach over the road, the fire department then gets notified before any people or roads bear the cost. While the real time emergency notification system is useful for first responders, it didn’t solve a bigger issue Charlotte was facing- outdated maps.

Most states use the flood maps FEMA provides. However, at the time in the 1990’s, a lot of these maps hadn’t been updated for North Carolina since the 1970s. FEMA didn’t have enough money to update all the flood maps across the country constantly. So, local governments worked together to set aside a couple million dollars to map flooding. This included a new process called “future conditions floodplain mapping.” This process takes land development and use into account, and helps determine how cities can best orient themselves to avoid damage from flooding. To accurately map flooding, the state partnered with FEMA and the U.S. Geological Survey.

The program in Charlotte was getting off the ground when another hurricane hit the state in 1999, Hurricane Floyd. At this time, politicians got the North Carolina General Assembly on board with tracking rivers in real time and making future conditions floodplain maps for the state. Unfortunately, in most states, it’s hard to get legislators to budget for expensive services such as this, especially when many still rely on old maps. Other states such as Alabama and Florida partnered with North Carolina to develop similar mapping programs. States even talked to experts on flood mapping in North Carolina to help their own programs.

The Charlotte case study is a great example of efforts that could be made by other communities in flood mapping and efforts to decrease damage from flooding. The success of all the planning and preparation is credited to a willingness for the city, county and state to adapt. Ultimately, the answer that worked was a “no” to flood prevention, and “yes” to damage prevention.

 

 

 

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.

How Natural Vegetation Creates Stream Buffers to Protect Waterbodies from Stormwater Pollution (and how you can help build one!)

What is a stream buffer?Image result for riparian buffer

Stream (also called riparian) buffers are strips of trees and other vegetation that:

  • improve water quality by filtering pollutants from stormwater runoff such as oil, fertilizers, pesticides, and dog waste;
  • reduce flooding and erosion by stabilizing stream banks;
  • moderate stream temperature and sunlight, keeping fish and other aquatic life healthy;
  • provide nesting and foraging habitat for many species of birds and animals.

You can help stream buffers purify our water by planting native trees and bushes along your stream or ditch, especially if the bank is bare or eroding. If you already have trees or shrubs along your waterway, simply leave it alone!

Mowing, cutting, and removing buffer vegetation may be regulated in your area, so check with your local government before undertaking landscaping or other projects within 100 feet of any water conveyances. (Selective cutting of understory shrubs and scrub by hand is usually allowed in very small amounts, but it is better to let the vegetation continue its natural regeneration process, which will allow trees to mature, form a canopy, and prevent undergrowth naturally.) Continue reading