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.

Stream Stewardship Opportunity: Join NC Stream Watch!

Are you looking for a local stewardship opportunity? Do you enjoy picking up trash or water quality monitoring? If so, you should join NC Stream Watch! 

NC Stream Watch is a state-wide community science engagement program created by North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ). NC Stream Watch showcases the wide diversity of watersheds across the Mountains, Piedmont and Coastal Plains regions of the state and gives folks an opportunity to engage with their local waterways. Any interested group can participate in Stream Watch, including scout troops, church volunteers, key clubs, or school programs. The minimum requirements are to do two trash cleanups per year and take a photo and GPS location of your stream site. 

This spring, CWEP is launching an NC Stream Watch Train-the Trainer series. Community groups in member local governments can contact CWEP to be trained as a Stream Watch leader and we will join you for your first event. CWEP will train leaders how to fill out the online monitoring surveys and choose a safe site. We will also provide materials such as macroinvertebrate sampling equipment and chemical water quality testing kits to enhance the environmental education opportunities at the first event. 

Please contact the CWEP AmeriCorps member at cwep@tjcog.org if you are interested in a training and visit the NC DEQ Stream Watch site for more information about the program.

NC Stream Watch Flyer

 

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

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