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!

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.

When it comes to stormwater pollution, sharing is NOT caring!

Our everyday activities can really contribute to stormwater pollution if we aren’t careful. Trash, litter, pet waste, sediment, fertilizers, oil, you name it – it can end up in the storm drain and on its way to the nearest stream before you know it! Of course, that pollution can have a major impact on the fish and other animals that live in those streams, ponds, and rivers where the pollution ends up. What would happen if the fish could tell us they didn’t appreciate us sharing our dirty stormwater with them?

Check out the video below to see what happened when Jonny Fishpatrick was fed up with the stormwater pollution being dumped in his home, and imagine how this could be happening in your neighborhood!

Did you know that good old fashioned dirt is actually a MAJOR stormwater pollutant?!

What happens to dirt in stormwater?

When soil, dirt, sand, clay, or other tiny bits of earth end up in stormwater, we then call it “sediment” because those pieces can eventually settle out to the bottom of a body of water. However, moving water such as stormwater runoff through our neighborhoods and cities keeps the sediment from settling and can cause serious problems for water quality.

What does sediment do in the environment?

Sediment pollution creates many issues in the environment; here are just a few!

  • Clogs fish gills and suffocates small insects and other animals;
  • Creates murky, cloudy water that blocks sunlight from reaching plants;
  • Transports hundreds of other chemicals and pollutants to our drinking water that are hitching a ride on the sediment;
  • Encourages growth of toxic algae that can make people and animals sick;
  • Completely changes the course of a river or stream by depositing new banks!

What can we do to reduce stormwater pollution from sediment?

Sediment can come from many sources, such as construction sites or digging, erosion when vegetation has been removed, and even just dust and grime from your driveway, car, and sidewalk. You can help keep this dirt from getting in our streams and rivers by sweeping up instead of hosing down!

If you see muddy brown water being deliberately sent into the storm drain like in the photo below, or if you see lots of sediment coming from a construction site, call your local water department (contact info here) and let them know right away.

Run off

Did your nearby creek suddenly turn brown? Report it to the Muddy Water Watch!

Ever wonder what to do and who to contact when you see a problem in a creek or river? Many of us witness pollution in our waterways and may not know how to help. Now, a new tool helps citizens report sedimentation and erosion issues from construction, chemical releases, oil spills, or even trash accumulation in their areas.

The Muddy Water Watch was developed by Waterkeepers around the country as a way to monitor and protect their waterways from harmful pollution. Concerned citizens can submit, assign, and track incidents as soon as they are discovered using the website interface. Additionally, their handy mobile app can be downloaded for free and sends citizen reports directly to the Riverkeeper in the impacted area.

Check out more about what the Waterkeeper Alliance and the Riverkeepers in your area are doing to keep your water safe.

waterkeeper