Thursday, August 26, 2010

11 things you can do to increase water in Austin creeks

This creek has high water flow during rain events; you can see the big pile of brush that the water carried.  But a day later,  it is sunny and the creek is dry (Fort Branch Watershed at Springdale Rd., I think).
We talked earlier about how one of the problems in local Austin streams is that they have too much water when it rains [which renders our poor froggies and fish practically habitat-less from all that turbulence], but not enough the rest of the time.  This, in part, is caused by how we have developed impermeable cover on top of our soil.  Basically, we've become urban.  For more details, please read my post on Watersheds in a nutshell in a nutshell.  Thanks!  Now onto the proactivity...

There are ways we can help those little froggies and fish keep their homes, and it doesn't have to be done by big groups of people.  Each yard can make a difference!  All we have to do is point water in a new direction, away from runoff and evaporation, and towards infiltration into the soil and groundwater.  When water is supplied to creeks by  groundwater recharge instead of runoff, creeks flow at a more constant rate.  A more constant flow rate helps preserve aquatic habitat.

Below are some tips directly from the City of Austin's Watershed Protection Department and the EPA that will help our creeks flow.

Structural improvements:

  • Select yard plants that have low requirements for water.
  • Preserve existing trees, and plant trees and shrubs.
  • Irrigate efficiently to avoid runoff from your yard (source).  For example, using "slow-watering techniques such as trickle irrigation or soaker hoses reduce runoff and are 20 percent more effective than sprinklers." (Thanks, EPA!)
Ground cover:
  • Spread mulch on bare ground or restore bare patches in your lawn.
  • Use compost. Compost retains moisture in the soil and thus helps you conserve water.

Increasing vegetation and ground covers are doubly effective.  They increase infiltration, and they also reduce evaporation!  Increased evaporation from impermeable ground surface is an often forgotten result of the increased urbanization of our watersheds.  By increasing shade, and thereby decreasing heat, we reduce evaporation (click here for more physic-sy evaporation details and terminology, just scroll down on the right side and look for terms).  This way, the water stays longer right where we want it, it our watershed!

What about you?  Do you have other tips?  This is Austin, so we can be creative!


Here is a 12th, amazing extra credit thing you can do: Create a green roof!  Thanks for the idea, Wildflower Center!

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