The streams and creeks that flow out of the City of Durham and into Falls Lake— including Ellerbe Creek—are degraded due to decades of poor stormwater management in our urbanized areas. Many of these problems come from a time before we realized the harm that we were doing to our clean water resources by ditching, straightening, filling, and dumping waste into those streams. We know better now, and the City now invests in ways to comply with the myriad of state and federal requirements to clean up those streams.
But Durham should do more than just comply with rules and laws; we should be trying to make those creeks and streams assets for the community. The City’s expert staff is innovative and efficient. ECWA and American Rivers have been partnering to work with them to use these requirements and our community’s amazing resources as an opportunity to invest in our own community and restore our streams.
ECWA installed a rain garden at our new office space at 2600 West Carver Street, Durham.
We all can help by starting right in our own backyards! Green infrastructure is an approach to water management that uses practices like land protection, rain gardens, permeable pavements, green roofs, rainwater harvesting, and something as simple as allowing your gutter downspouts to empty into your yard rather than the sidewalk or street.
Green infrastructure mimics the natural water cycle through the use of plants and soils or through engineered solutions that recreate natural processes. This approach can be used to help clean up our creeks through planned, widespread implementation, using both public and private investment. It took more than 100 years to degrade our streams, and they won’t be fixed overnight; it is a slow and steady process to return the balance to the system.
ECWA and American Rivers are working together to grow Durham’s stormwater management innovation. In 2018, we hope the City Council and staff will pass a budget that will start the process of: 1) Initiating a code and ordinance review, to assure City rules are not a barrier to stormwater innovation; and 2) developing and launching a formal City cost-share program for the use of green stormwater infrastructure.
Raleigh has recently launched a very successful green stormwater infrastructure strategic plan that incorporates these components into their overall program—Durham can and should do the same. Join one of our Creek Smart Tours to learn more!