By Lindsie Nicholas and David McGrade, Bluegrass Greensource
At this point in winter, the yearning for spring and the outdoors usually hits – greener pastures, flowering trees and flowing streams as winter melts in, ushering in those spring rains. With the changing seasons, our local waterways and bodies of water change. Where is all this melting snow and rainwater going, and how is it affecting me? There are a few sayings in the water community, “we all live in a watershed” and “we all live downstream”, but what do they mean and what are the implications?
A watershed is an area of land where water flowing through or under drains to a common body of water. When we look at most maps of the United States, we see our country divided by states. Looking at an individual state, it is further broken down into counties and cities. We can think of our watersheds in the same way. A watershed can be a small part of the county you live in, but when you combine multiple watersheds, they can become multi-state or larger areas. Think of the Mississippi River Basin. Recognizing these natural water divisions that ignore county lines is important to maintaining the health of every person and animal that lives there – “We all live in a watershed!”
Depending on where you live, your local watershed is likely where you get your drinking water and includes the stream that runs through your backyard or favorite park. Every drop of rain or snow that falls into your watershed will either be absorbed by the ground or run off the landscape to a local body of water. As this water flows over the land, it absorbs pollutants such as sediment, waste, nitrogen and phosphorus from excess fertilizers, bacteria in human waste from septic systems or failing sewer lines, animal and livestock waste, oils, grease and chemicals from roads and parking lots. before it hits the water. These pollutants not only affect your local waterways, but can also affect drinking water sources miles downstream or in the direction in which the stream water is flowing. The type and amount of pollutants that reach our waterways affect local water quality in our watershed and beyond – “We all live downstream!”
Protecting our waterways allows us to enjoy the multiple benefits associated with protecting them, including a source of clean drinking water and safe waters for recreation. Being consciously aware of our impact on waterways helps protect them. We can help in small ways that have a big impact by properly disposing of car waste and fluids, picking up pet waste, and learning sustainable lawn care practices. When it comes to our waterways, riparian plantings, also known as riparian buffers, and bank stabilization and restoration projects play a lasting role in protecting our waterways and improving water quality. ‘water.
Bluegrass Greensource is working with a grant from the US EPA under §319(h) of the Clean Water Act to improve the water quality of our local waterways. In March, Bluegrass Greensource is hosting the Saving Our Streambanks virtual workshop series. The series is free and open to the public. As a participant, you will learn the information, tools and resources needed to establish riparian buffers and stabilize banks on your property and in our communities. The series takes place on Tuesdays and Thursdays from March 9-25, 2021 from 3-4 p.m. via Zoom. Speakers include representatives from Roundstone Native Seed, Beaver Creek Hydrology, Oakland Farm Trees, Ironweed Nursery, Bluegrass Greensource and regional representatives from NRCS, Soil and Water Conservation District and UK Extension Service. Applications for mini-cost-share grants will be available for those assisting with the establishment of streamside buffers in the Clarks Run and Hanging Fork watersheds in Boyle and Lincoln counties.
Grants are repayable up to $2,000! Registration, full workshop program, list of speakers and more are available on the website at bggreensource.org/riparian-buffers/
A riparian or riparian buffer zone is a strip or area of vegetation along a watercourse that contains a combination of trees, grasses, shrubs and perennials. Plant roots in the buffer zone filter out excess nitrogen and phosphorus in runoff, as well as sediment, bacteria and other pollutants. Buffers also help prevent shoreline erosion and provide habitat for a variety of aquatic and terrestrial species. Not only is there a clear benefit to stream water quality, a riparian buffer can also be very aesthetically pleasing. Whenever you go to your favorite park, what can be so enjoyable is the landscape and the native plants. Yet the beauty of a riparian buffer doesn’t have to stop at the park. Bluegrass Greensource and other organizations offer cost-share programs and advice on how to establish your own riparian buffer.
Sign up for the workshop series to learn more!
The benefits of protecting our waterways are endless. From our drinking water to a place where we can go to relax and spend time with our families, maintaining our watershed is essential to improving our quality of life. Recognizing and acting on its importance will help others who live in the watershed, as well as future generations who will share the same water source you use today.