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What Can You do to Help?

What Can You do to Help?

How can you help to keep your watershed clean and healthy?  

No matter where you live, you are in a watershed. Everyone has a watershed address.

To find yours go to: http://cfpub.epa.gov/surf/locate/index.cfm

It is easy to think that a few insignificant actions will not make a difference. However, keep in mind that the cumulative impact of your actions, along with others in the watershed, can have a dramatic impact on stream health and water quality. As watersheds become more populated, we must realize that our actions and decisions do have an impact on our streams. Whether you live on a farm, in a small town or in a rural area, you can incorporate practices that help protect our water resources. Pollution that comes from many locations through out the watershed rather than a single source is called non-point source pollution (NPS). Much of this pollution is manure, fertilizers, road salts, oil, excessive sediment and chemicals. Each source may seem minor, but the total pollution that results is a major problem.

There are many practices that you can adopt that will help reduce pollution in your watershed. The Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania recommends some basic practices that can be implemented that will improve stream quality.

The following are listed in their informational pamphlet 25 Ways to Protect Your Stream and Streamside Property.

  • Base your fertilizer use on the conditions of your soil. More is NOT better; follow directions.
  • Don’t fertilize plants near streams.
  • Limit your overall use of pesticides and herbicides, and use extreme caution when using them near streams.
  • Keep grazing and other farm animals out of and away from the stream.
  • Contact your county conservation district or local NRCS office to find out about farm fencing programs.
  • Compost yard waste. Don’t bag lawn trimmings; leave them in place for effective recycling of nutrients.
  • Don’t store or dump manure, garden waste or grass clippings near streams.
  • Don’t burn refuse near stream banks.
  • Store firewood, trash and other materials well away from streams.
  • Never dump trash or chemicals into stream, storm drains or sewers.
  • Poorly stored trash, litter and yard debris can easily get into steams during rain events.
    river with river bank

Identifying areas on your property where erosion is occurring involves a simple walk through evaluation of the area. As you walk your property, the Maryland Cooperative Extension Service recommends checking for the following conditions which indicate that erosion is occurring.

  • Exposed tree roots
  • Small gullies
  • Build up of silt and soil in low-lying areas
  • Soil splashed on walls or on walkways
  • Widening and deepening of stream channels and drainage ditches

rain gardenIf you discover signs of erosion, there are a number of steps you can take to reduce run-off and encourage infiltration that will reduce the damaging effects of erosion. This can often be achieved by covering bare ground with vegetation, redirecting water to vegetated areas and always planting trees, shrubs and grasses that are suitable to the area. Plants that are native to the area will be more likely to thrive and will be less labor, fertilizer and water intensive. Having a lush covering of plants encourages rainwater to seep slowly into the ground rather than running off and taking sediment and other pollutants with it. Other practices that are effective in infiltrating rain water are bio-retention areas, rain gardens and rain barrels. Rain gardens and bio-retentions areas can be created in low lying areas and will act like a sponge in soaking up rainwater.

rain barrelAnother method for reducing runoff and conserving water is to install a rain barrel to your house, shed or garage downspout to collect rainwater flowing off the roof. This water can used later to water your flower beds or gardens during dry weather. Rain barrels can be constructed at home or can be purchased at gardens shops.

Increased water infiltration is not the only benefit of installing rain gardens, butterfly gardens, tree-shrub groupings, ground covers and bio-retention butterflyareas on your property. Once installed, they take less time and energy to maintain than a lawn since regular mowing is not necessary. They conserve water since they absorb and infiltrate rain and surface run-off. Hardy native plants and perennials are recommended in these areas so there is less need to water them during dry spells and they will multiply and cover the area so replanting each year is not required. Another plus of adding these areas to your property is wildlife conservation. According to the Chesapeake Bay Program’s Better Backyard publication, planting trees, shrubs, and perennial plants provides habitat for migrating birds and monarch butterflies. It also provides homes for resident birds, amphibians and reptiles, butterflies, moths and other beneficial insects.

More ways to help:

Create or improve your Backyard Habitat

Maintain or improve Riparian Buffers

For more information on environmentally friendly landscapes check out the following sites: