April and May showers may bring flowers but for our streams rain can also bring problems. Recent rains have resulted in our streams resembling unappetizing chocolate milk more than the clear clean water that we want to see.
Before many people lived in the Delaware region, most of our area was covered in forests, wetlands and marshes. When it rained most of the rain water would slowly infiltrate (soak) into the ground and into the groundwater. Today our landscape also includes homes, businesses, and shopping centers. Rain water can’t soak through impervious surfaces such as roads, building and parking lots but instead runs over these surfaces picking up contaminants and sediment and quickly flowing into our waterways.
Data on our local streams clearly shows how as stream flow increases during storm events, so does the cloudiness of the water as measured by turbidity – a measure of the relative amount of suspended particles such as sediment.
Bare soil, dirt exposed from poor construction and farming practices, and stream bank erosion caused by excessive flows cause increased turbidity. Muddy water harms aquatic life, smothers habitat, and increases water temperatures. It can also be a health concern to drinking water sources and recreational uses since harmful microbes found in animal and human waste bind to soil particles.
Providing opportunities for rain water to slowly infiltrate into the ground can keep pollutants and sediment out of our waters while reducing flooding
Rainwater and soil are assets that should be kept in place:
- Soak it Up: Add native shrubs, trees or perennial plants who’s deep root systems help to break-up soil and promote infiltration, while also holding the soil in place.
- Cover it Up: Cover bare soil with mulch and more importantly plants!
- Prevent It: Minimize chemical use on lawns and in our houses, don’t mow right up to the creek, and pick up after your pets.
Thank you to the volunteers involved with the Delaware Nature Society Stream Watch, White Clay Wild & Scenic program, and Nature Conservancy Stream Stewards for their dedication to monitoring & improving the health of our waters.
Learn more about the White Clay Stream Watch Program and Online Stream Sensors.