By John Searby, Executive Director
Since coming to Catawba Riverkeeper a little over two years ago, I have had the amazing opportunity to learn so many new and interesting things about our river basin, the hydrology of rivers and lakes, point and non-point source pollution, how our waterways get damaged, and what we can do to fix them. You see, I am not a scientist by training and, in fact, don’t have a deep background in environmental science at all. But I am curious.
What my curiosity has led me to is a deeper understanding of the fact that what threatens our waterways in the Catawba-Wateree River Basin is not a single bad actor or definable threat; rather it is a combination of dozens of challenges to the quality, quantity, fishability, swimability, drinkability, and resilience of these creeks, streams, lakes, and rivers that we call home. And often when it comes to the challenges rearing their ugly heads when it rains it pours…literally.
Across the Catawba River Basin after a very dry summer, we’ve had some big rainfall events. With these rainfall events has come stormwater run-off from our parking lots, rooftops, streets, and sidewalks. That stormwater has picked up all of the grease, oil, brake dust, pet waste, and loose soil in its path and raced it as fast as it could down our storm drains and directly into our creeks. If this is news to you, then I would encourage you to look around you in the next rainstorm with a greater concern for what goes down the storm drains near you because there is no filter between that drain and your nearest creek and that creek moves quickly to a reservoir in our basin that is someone’s drinking water (and yours). It’s gross, it pollutes our water, it carries sedimentation that fills in our creeks and river, and it drives our municipal costs of purifying your drinking water up. And it can seem overwhelming when it is pouring rain and water is running everywhere.
But YOU can do something about it. You can do small things like cleaning out storm drains so that leaves, grass clippings, and trash don’t clog them up. You can pick up after your pet so their waste doesn’t run into our waterways and you can avoid using chemicals on your yard so that those nutrients don’t pile up when they hit the lakes and cause algal blooms. You can pick up trash on sidewalks and parking lots when you see it so it doesn’t go down the drain. And you can be the eyes of the Riverkeeper in your neighborhood. That’s right – you can be a RIVERKEEPER!
How do you do that? Well, you start by downloading the free Catawba Riverkeeper app from the Apple or Google Play stores. Create your account and you’re ready to roll. When you’re driving down the road in the rain or after a storm and you see a silt fence down like the one in the picture above at a development or job site and the muddy water is rushing over it, snap a picture, open the app to the Pollution Reporter, and complete the simple form. Hit “submit” and you’re done – you’re a RIVERKEEPER. When you submit, our Citizen Science Coordinator, Morgan, will get your report, make sure it gets reported to the appropriate authorities in your area so they can get the problem fixed and hold the polluter accountable, and keep our waterways clean. We’ll follow up to make sure action was taken and we’ll update you on what your simple act of reporting pollution accomplished.
It really is that easy to make a difference. So go ahead and download the app, play around with it so you’re ready, and next time it rains keep your eyes peeled and join us in keeping your waterways protected. Because when it rains, it doesn’t have to pour mud and when people know that thousands of Riverkeepers are on the job, they’ll make sure they keep their job sites stable and secure from the rushing stormwater.