Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Follow Your Stormwater - On a RE Sources Watershed Walk!

***This article was contributed by Lauren Currin, Baykeeper Intern***

The North Sound Baykeeper Team’s Watershed Walks are coming to a neighborhood near you! Watershed Walks are neighborhood walking tours that explore urban watersheds, explain how development has changed the effectiveness of our watersheds’ water filtering capacity, and offer examples of green infrastructure as a solution to managing polluted runoff on-site in our communities.

Stormwater, or polluted runoff, is created when rainwater washes off our roofs, driveways, lawns, and roads. Stormwater carries pollutants including pet waste, fertilizers, pesticides, oil and grease into our stormwater systems, which drain into our waterways without any treatment!

O
ur group of interns developed, promoted, and recently offered our first tour - of the Lettered Streets Neighborhood Watershed, where we demonstrated the effects of stormwater on Whatcom Creek and Bellingham Bay. The walk focused on how low impact development (LID) can be implemented locally to reduce the amount of water running off the landscape during storms; and how lifestyle choices contribute to pollution on our landscape. The Lettered Streets tour included the participation of local homeowners who installed various LID techniques on their properties, including rain gardens, rain barrels, French drains, dry streambeds, and pervious paving. Homeowners shared why they had chosen to install LID, how they did it, and how each strategy has worked for them.

Here are some highlights from the Lettered Streets Watershed Walk:

In this photo, Keturah Witter shares the details of a project she participated in to add dry streambeds and a rainwater runoff catchment system to help reduce flooding on this property. This project resulted in slowing down the speed and volume of water running off this property during rain events. The homeowner did all the labor themselves over a few days this past summer, which reduced costs.

Here, lettered Streets homeowner, Mike Etnier, explains why he removed his grass lawn and added LID features including rain barrels and dry streambeds. He didn’t like having to mow the grass, and his yard was constantly flooded during the winter and spring because of poor drainage. Because of LID, rainwater is managed more efficiently on his property, resulting in less flooding.

In this photo, Emily Johnson, Environmental Educator for Bellingham Public Works Department, shows us the City’s underground stormwater system. None of us had ever looked into a catch basin before – it’s interesting! We observed water flowing through the pipes; this water runs off our streets and homes and receives no treatment before entering Whatcom Creek.

All in all, the Lettered Streets Watershed Walk was a great success! We all walked away with a better understanding of how individual choices, both in everyday life and in how we manage our properties, can have an impact on water quality.

Our next Watershed Walk will take place in the Birchwood Neighborhood in early 2012. Stay tuned for more details! If you live in the Birchwood neighborhood and either have LID on your property or are interested in the Birchwood Neighborhood Watershed Walk, please contact us!

If you would like to be notified before the next walk or for more information, contact Lindsay Taylor, North Sound Baykeeper Project Coordinator, lindsayt@re-sources.org

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