En-Gauging in Your Community: the Streams of the University of Georgia


Many are unaware of the extensive watershed that spreads through the University of Georgia’s campus. If you had to guess now, how many streams would you estimate there are on the premises? How many have you actually seen?

If you guessed three streams, then you are correct! It may have been difficult to guess though because portions of these streams are located underground, beneath the campus. The streams that run through UGA are Tanyard Creek (arguably the most well-known of the three), Lilly Branch, and the Steam Plant Stream. Additionally, Lake Herrick and the Founders’ Spring are also contributors to the UGA storm drainage system and watershed. All of these streams and sources empty into the North Oconee River, which is a major drinking water supply source for Athens, Georgia.

Tanyard Creek begins flowing from the intersection of Milledge Avenue and Broad Street, and is piped underneath the UGA campus before it reemerges at Baxter Street and Lumpkin Street near the Tate Center and new Bolton Dining Commons. Tanyard Creek then travels via pipe under Sanford Stadium and into the North Oconee River (about a 1 mile long distance in total). It is perhaps the most well-known stream due to the Chew Crew’s involvement here. The Chew Crew began in 2012 when a College of Environment and Design student, Zach Richardson, wrote a grant proposal and was funded to use goats as a method of prescribed grazing along the stream. The prescribed grazing aids in removing invasive plant species from the creek such as kudzu, privet, and English ivy, and helps to reestablish the health of the stream’s ecology. The program has been very successful, with the goats coming every spring, and hundreds of students gathering together to volunteer in stream cleanups, sampling, and vegetative surveying. The Chew Crew loves any and all volunteers so be sure to check them out if you are interesting in volunteering with them!

funny goat puts out its tongue

Lily Branch, formerly known as “Stinky Creek,” is roughly 2 miles long and flows above ground near South Five Points and the Lamar Dodd School of Art; it flows beneath the University in pipes between these two areas. Due to the stream’s lack of riparian buffers and therefore poor water quality, the Odum School of Ecology Environmental Practicum Course created a collaborative initiative to clean and manage the stream starting in 2014. While this has been a difficult task, monitoring has shown that Lilly Branch exhibits signs of improvement; however, it is still far from ideal conditions.

Lastly, Steam Plant Stream is a little less than a mile long. It begins on South Campus near Boyd Hall, flowing near the UGA Steam Plant and Facilities Management Area. It is then piped through campus and daylights along River Road. The Steam Plant Stream watershed has a lot of issues with overgrown invasive species and appears yellow, which may be due to an iron-oxidizing bacteria.

For a map showing UGA’s watersheds click here and proceed to “Campus Watershed Maps”.

River pollution - Stock Image

We can reverse and prevent pollution that has accumulated like this on campus- we just have to do our part! (not a photo of a UGA stream)

All of these streams are heavily urbanized and need our help! Now that you have been enlightened on the not so fresh, not so clean facts about UGA’s streams, what is there that you can do about it??

  • Always clean up after your pets!! Animal waste is a major contributor to “poo-llution” in stream runoff that ends up in streams.
  • Don’t litter! You would think this is common sense people, but you would be amazed at the amount of trash volunteers pick up along these streams!
  • Do your part- Volunteer, help remove invasive species, and pick up trash whenever you see it! Become a stream steward! Check out Watershed UGA’s latest initiative- Daylighting the Watersheds
  • Educate! Educate those around you, especially children, to understand the importance of keeping our streams safe.

So get out into the community and let’s all promote the betterment of our local watersheds!

Laughing girl showing thumbs up.

Other sources: here under Watershed Management Plan Fall 2014 Update


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