What Helps a Stream & What Hurts
Watersheds are living systems fed by all the rain that falls. The quality of our water -- as it drains to streams and flows downstream -- is affected by everything that happens on the land. Human activity can seriously disturb the natural systems that keep water clean. Every landowner with streamside property, every person in the watershed, can help protect our water.
What Hurts a Stream?
Disturbing vegetation along streambanks (riparian zones). Clearing trees and shrubs to make a groomed lawn, or plowing right to the edge of a stream, will increase erosion -- soil loss through erosion and sedmintation in streambeds is the major pollutant in the Lake Erie basin. Over-fertilization of lawns, excess manure application to fields, failed septic systems, illicit pipe connections -- all these can threaten aquatic life and contaminate our water.
disturbed riparian zone, with trees and vegetation removed
Native vegetation in riparian zones and wide buffer strips. Undisturbed, tree-lined streambanks and edges are necessary for filtering sediments and pollutants. The shade of foliage, the tree roots and woody debris, are all important to keep water cool and provide habitat for fish and aquatic life. If riparian zones have been cleared or disturbed in the past, re-vegetate with wide buffer strips of trees and shrubs (their wide-spreading roots hold to streambanks much better than grass). Let natural vegetation, the native shrubs and wildflowers, return. Don't plant grass or mow or fertilize a groomed lawn near a stream. If you want access to the water, walk there often, place a bench for stream-viewing, and a natural low-impact walking path will take shape.
protected riparian zone, with native vegetation, trees, shrubs, wildflowers