Empowering Residents to Improve Their Watershed
Each year, American homeowners, searching for the perfect green lawn, apply more than a million tons of toxic fertilizers and pesticides to their yards. And in many places, those lawns go right up to the edges of streams and rivers. It’s not too hard to guess where at least some of the chemicals wind up.
In undisturbed areas, the natural vegetation growing along stream banks absorbs runoff when it rains and prevents erosion into the streams. But when natural vegetation is replaced with nonnative turf grass along stream banks, the runoff pours into the streams, carrying with it any chemicals it has picked up along the way and eroding the stream banks. In response to the erosion, local officials will often install cement aprons, gravity walls, and hard armoring along waterways, further degrading habitat and increasing the chances that chemicals will pour into the water instead of being absorbed by the ground. It’s a domino effect.
Friends of Wolf Run in Lexington, Kentucky, has been working to improve the water quality of the impaired Wolf Run Watershed since 1997. With a 2011 Innovation Grant project, they created demonstration sites on public lands to inspire Lexington-area landowners to create their own stream-side habitat buffers. Interested landowners learned hands-on how to restore streamside habitat by taking part in educational stream walks, trash clean ups, invasive plant removal demonstrations, native plant installations, and water quality monitoring.
Over time, Wolf Run watershed should see its native streamside habitat return – and with it, the quality of water flowing through the river.