At this time of year in Oregon, water is on everybody’s mind – and on our shoulders, heads, and feet. Abundant and clean, our water is a precious gift. Here are some ideasfor practicing good stewardship of water.
Cover bare soil with mulch, fallen leaves, finished compost, or – best of all – living plants. This practice reduces erosion and run-off which can, in turn, waste water and damage property.
Plant native species, which attract native animals and insects that come to us adapted to local water, soil, and climate conditions. They are therefore more disease resistant and less likely to require pesticides or fertilizers.
Disconnect downspouts to prevent runoff into a creek or combined sewer. (Of course, it’s important to check first if you can do this in a way that is appropriate and safe for the local soil and topography.) Directing the runoff from gutters into yards is a way for rain to be filtered through the soil into the groundwater. Rain barrels, cisterns, and rain gardens are alternative approaches for managing water.
Remove unnecessary concrete or impervious surfaces so that rainwater can soak into the ground. That way, there will be cold groundwater for creeks in the spring and summer. Use permeable pavers, flagstones, or gravel as landscaping features.
Collect and dispose of leaves properly. The fallen, decaying leaves that enter waterways through storm drains are absorbing oxygen needed by aquatic life forms. Leaves can jam catch basins and gutters so that the water overflows and floods. Erosion and property damage can result.
Encourage parishioners to drive less to keep oil and other pollutants off the pavement and out of the creeks, streams, and rivers. Carpooling, using public transportation, riding bicycles, and walking are other ways to reduce mileage.
Weed by hand and practice composting so that you can use pesticides and fertilizers sparingly, and even avoid them altogether.
Dispose of hazardous wastes properly to keep them out of waterways. Solvents and gardening products belong at hazardous waste facilities, not down drains. (You can organize a neighborhood collection event!) Pet waste needs to be cleaned up as soon as possible for the same reason.
Sweep patios and outdoor areas instead of hosing them down, which wastes water and carries contaminants into waterways.
These ideas can help any building or property – parish, home, or business – make a more positive impact on the watersheds of our region. More information about watershed issues and local creek and river conditions is available from local watershed councils and river keeper organizations.
Faith-based environmentalism has an important role to play in preserving and rebuilding the living systems of earth. This piece urges modern to lessen the harm done to water. The perspective is hopeful. The audience is mainstream, religious, American. Published in OREGON EPISCOPAL CHURCH NEWS, Spring 2013.