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Ellerbe Creek
Watershed Association
YouTube Icon We are excited to be rolling out a series of Ellerbe & Me videos as part of our end of year campaign. Look for a new video each week, and consider supporting ECWA so we can continue to create and document more Ellerbe & Me stories across the watershed!
Working TogetherMeet the newest member of the team that keeps ECWA working - Director of Conservation, Cherri Smith.
Explorer's ClubSign up for nature hikes, Family Explorers Club, preserve workdays, and Green Infrastructure workshops. They're all happening at ECWA nature preserves!
Join ECWAJoin ECWA. Your family can join ECWA for as little as 11 cents per day. Help us protect the creek, restore the creek and connect the community to the creek.
 
The Rocks Nature Preserve
Youth Conservation Corps

at Glennstone Nature Preserve

Image from ECWA wildlife camera
at Glennstone Nature Preserve

ECWA 2014 Creek Tour

Glennstone Nature Preserve

Artwork by Melanie Middleton's kindergarten class from EK Powe Elementary School about their science class field trips to the 17 Acre Wood

Bald Eagle at Beaver Marsh Preserve
(photo by j meehan)

Introducing the 2017 Beaver Queen

FUR-EDDIE MERCURY

photo by Lyn Steuart

Eight-year-old Esther Hernandez-Alvarez collects soil samples near Goose Creek. Read More

Eight-year-old Esther Hernandez-Alvarez collects soil samples near Goose Creek. Read More

Eight-year-old Esther Hernandez-Alvarez collects soil samples near Goose Creek. Read More

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Upcoming Events

 

Behind an abandoned movie theater, just off Interstate 85 and above an urban wetland, 10 young people spent last week blazing half a mile of trails.

Maybe not quite blazing – more like chopping, pulling, digging, filling, grading and bridging half a mile through heat, bugs, brush and matted tangles of English ivy,...

The EPA's proposed revocation of the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) definition and its proposed replacement ... is a threat to our non-regulatory approach to restoring Ellerbe Creek. For this reason, the Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association has major concerns about both of these proposed agency actions ...

The Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association, City of Durham Stormwater Services, American Rivers, Downtown Durham, Inc., and the Triangle J Council of Governments are conducting a study in the Ellerbe Creek Watershed to identify opportunities for small stormwater retrofits (e.g. green roofs, rain gardens) with the potential to improve water quality in the creek.

It’s bawdy, it’s irreverent, but it also bills itself as family-friendly, and all the money raised goes for an environmental cause — to improve the water quality of Ellerbe Creek.

It is the annual Beaver Queen Pageant, and the 13th annual contest for the queen of the wetlands will be held Saturday, June 3, in Duke Park. Just about everything that is said at the pageant or published on the Beaver Queen website is a pun...

“Fur-Eddie Mercury” on Saturday was crowned the 2017 Beaver Queen after a competitive Beaver Queen Pageant that included singing, comedy and lots of double entendres.

The annual Beaver Queen Pageant, held the first Saturday in June at Duke Park, is a fundraiser for the Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association. Funds are raised in large part by guests and contestants “bribing” judges — legally — to get their votes as well as participants paying $5 per vote.

The Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association visits Durham classrooms and holds outdoor lessons as part of its Explorers Club, which connects students in kindergarten through fifth grade to environmental education opportunities and fosters a love of the outdoors. The nonprofit’s big-picture mission is advocating for a healthy Ellerbe Creek, which runs through Durham and empties into Falls Lake, and protecting more than 340 acres of land along the creek and its tributary streams.

While out fishing on a lake with her father, 7-year-old Laura Smith lost one of her baby teeth. As the tooth was falling out, she hooked a big fish.

“That’s one of our family folk tales,” said Smith, now a parent as well as a stormwater expert with the city of Durham. “When families spend time in nature together, they are building the foundation for a lifelong environmental ethic, not to mention forming great memories.”

From Allibay and Watery Branch to Pinhook and Allergy Creek, the history of Ellerbe and South Ellerbe creeks is long and colorful. During his 1701 trek through the wilderness of the Carolinas, John Lawson headed east from Occaneechi Town (near what is now Hillsborough). Lawson wrote of hiking 14 difficult miles, "a sad stoney way," to the next village, called Adshusheer.

The Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association visits Durham classrooms and holds outdoor lessons as part of its Explorers Club, which connects students in kindergarten through fifth grade to environmental education opportunities and fosters a love of the outdoors. The nonprofit’s big-picture mission is advocating for a healthy Ellerbe Creek, which runs through Durham and empties into Falls Lake, and protecting more than 340 acres of land along the creek and its tributary streams.

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Build Healthy Soil

Problem

Many of our urban soils lost their natural layer of topsoil or were compacted during development. These unhealthy, compacted soils cannot maintain healthy plants or infiltrate large amounts of rainfall the way a native landscape would do. Since these soils cannot retain water and lack nutrients, homeowners end up using excessive water and fertilizer to grow plants and grass. The result is that unhealthy soils create lots of nutrient-laden runoff that goes directly to Ellerbe Creek, causing flooding and stream bank erosion.

Healthy Soil

Healthy Soil
Image source: Animalia Project

Solution

Consider converting at least 20% of your yard to a more natural landscape to help protect the creek. Start by building new topsoil that can support native plants or a beautiful garden for you to enjoy. A healthy forest soil has up to 50% air, so just 1,000 square feet (a 33x33 foot area) of a healthy, 6-inch deep soil can store over 1,500 gallons of water. Having a diversity of plants, specifically native plants and trees, helps build healthy soil and provides biodiversity for wildlife and pollinators. Using no or minimal fertilizer allows soil organisms to break down leaves and other organic matter, creating healthier soil which provides nutrients for plants and holds water naturally for dry times.

Native garden with lawn

Native garden with lawn
Image source: ECWA

 

Don't Fertilize the Creek

Problem

Stormwater runoff collects everything in its path and carries it to the creek. Fertilizer runoff from yards and other landscaped areas is a major source of nitrogen and phosphorus pollution in our creek. Excessive nitrogen and phosphorus contribute to harmful, even toxic, algae growth in downstream water, which is dangerous to aquatic life and to us.

When you fertilize, you are not just fertilizing your lawn

"When you fertilize, you are not just fertilizing your lawn"
Image source: Minnesota Sea Grant

Resources for Nutrient Reduction:

Solution

Having some lawn can help manage stormwater by allowing some stormwater infiltration, especially if you combine this with a downspout disconnection. Keeping your grass to around three inches tall helps reduce water use and protects the soil. Often, unhealthy soil is the problem, so testing your soil and building a healthier soil can help get your lawn off drugs. But, if you must to fertilize, keep the stream in mind and: use as little fertilizer as possible, don’t fertilize before a big rain, don’t get fertilizer on the street, sidewalk, or driveway because it will wash into the creek.

Lawn Cared For Organically

Lawn Cared For Organically
Image source: Rodale News

 

Build a Rain Garden

Problem

A huge source of demand on our drinking water supply comes from yard and garden irrigation. We spend good money watering plants and lawns with drinking water, while we treat rainwater as waste, sending it through gutters, downspouts, driveways, sidewalks, and pipes directly into the stormwater system. All of this rainwater is problematic for the creek downstream because it contributes to pollution and stream bank erosion, and the opportunity to capture and use the water in our yards is lost.

Downspout outlet at curb

Downspout Outlet at Curb
Image source: ECWA

Rain Garden Resources:

To sign up for a Creek Smart class with ECWA, please check HERE. If no classes are currently scheduled, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to be added to a waiting list.

Solution

A rain garden is a practical and beautiful solution for many yards. By capturing rain water in your yard and allowing it to infiltrate into the soil, you help protect the creek from pollution, reduce sedimentation and recharge groundwater sources. By planting the garden with native plants, you help attract native pollinators, increase biodiversity in the watershed, and create beautiful landscape features. There are specific guidelines to ensure that your rain garden’s site will properly capture rainwater while protecting structures on your property. Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to learn more about rain gardens, be added to ECWA’s workshop list, or have your yard assessed.

Rain Garden

Rain Garden
Image source: ECWA

 

Harvest Rainwater

Problem

Drinking Water

Drinking Water
Image source:
Yale Environment Review

A huge source of demand on our drinking water supply comes from yard and garden irrigation. There are several major problems with this. First, municipal drinking water is expensive and was treated for you to drink. Your tap water isn’t as good for your garden as rainwater, which has lots of nutrients. And during every one-inch rainfall, the average 2,000-square-foot roof can yield more than 1,000 gallons of rainwater. Unfortunately this rainfall is usually piped directly to the street, which damages the creek downstream because it enters the creek at a high volume and carries pollutants and trash.

Rainwater Flowing Off Roof

Rainwater Flowing Off Roof
Image source: US Waterproofing

Solution

Collecting rainwater from your roof with a cistern can help protect the creek while at the same time providing valuable, healthy water for your yard and gardens. Rain water is naturally high in important plant nutrients like nitrogen, so the plants will like it much better than your treated tap water.

Installing a cistern can be a bit of a challenge, but we can help you learn how. Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to learn more about rainwater harvesting, get on ECWA’s workshop list, or have your yard assessed.

200 Gallon Cistern in Backyard

200 Gallon Cistern in Backyard
Image source: ECWA

 

Disconnect Your Roof from the Creek

Problem

Many of our homes have gutters and downspouts that are piped directly to the driveway, sidewalk, or street, allowing the stormwater to run unmanaged to the stormwater pipes, which go directly to the creek. This contributes massive amounts of runoff to the creek. For example, if you have a 2,000 square-foot home, your roof sheds over 1,000 gallons of water during a one-inch rainfall! With so many people piping the runoff directly to the creek, it never gets the chance to recover.

Downspout heading to creek

Downspouts heading to the creek
Image source: ECWA

Downspout heading to creek

Downspout disconnection
Image source: US EPA

Solution

Most yards have some area downhill that can safely infiltrate that water. So, run the downspout to where they can benefit trees, plants, or grass in your yard without affecting structures on your property or your neighbor’s.

This practice is easy to do yourself, but we can help you learn how. Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or attend one of our workshops.