Drought: Will it result in the “Stormwater Apocolypse”?

With the Walking Dead returning in less than a week, I can’t help but think about the zombie apocalypse. Okay, I am not really worried about zombies, but there is another kind of apocalypse that can affect our streams and rivers and it is much more realistic: The “Stormwater Apocalypse”. The good news is that it is preventable. The “Stormwater Apocalypse” refers to what can happen to our water as a result of drought and the rains that follow.

There is more to drought than water supply shortages. There are important environmental impacts that most of us don’t think about very much. These indirect impacts can be very damaging. Our natural systems become more vulnerable to things like wildfires, habitat loss, invasive species, plant diseases and pests during a drought. All of these things can lead to the Stormwater Apocalypse! (Think from a frog or fish’s point of view.)

Over the last several years local ecosystems have become weakened as a result of our drought. When it finally does rain, these systems do not protect our waterways as well as they used to. Think about it, weakened trees and plants are more susceptible to disease and pests. When root systems die more pollution enters our streams when it rains. This is because runoff can more efficiently dislodge and transport sediment (aka dirt) because there are fewer plant roots holding the soil in place. This additional sediment covers rocks and sand that aquatic life depends on. Sediment can contains things like fertilizers, pesticides, oil, and other pollutants, and dirty water can be a problem for critters that rely on clear water to survive. All these problems can lead to a “Stormwater Apocalypse” in our fragile streams and rivers. (These systems provide Athens with our drinking water.  So, even if you are not a fish or frog, you need to care about these things.) 

That brings me to the good news! By eliminating litter and dumping, using smart landscaping, rain gardens, detention ponds, rain catchment systems, porous pavers, and other water-smart strategies we can protect our waterways from the stormwater apocalypse. In fact, there are great examples all around Athens. Here is a gallery of local projects that protect water, look great, and are fantastic examples of things we all should do. (These photos are from Fowler Drive Elementary School.) Tell us about your projects! Individuals and businesses are doing cool things all around Athens-Clarke County to protect our water. What can you do today?

Stumped? Check out the Athens-Clarke County Stormwater Division for ideas!

And, I would be remiss if I didn’t remind you to “Conserve: WATER u waiting 4?”

-Marilyn Hall

ACC Water Conservation Coordinator

Originally posted on waterconservationstation.blogspot.com, 2/5/13

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