Watershed NOW Overview
“Water has a voice. It carries a message that tells those downstream who you are and how you care for the land.” (Bernie McGurl, Lackawanna Association)
1. Watershed NOW began in late 2014 as an ecumenical group of concerned citizens interested in environmental stewardship. It focused on our Big Elkin Creek watershed. Watershed stewardship means not taking clean water for granted.
2. Watershed NOW incorporated in January 2016 as a nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation. Its mission is to create a local response to the global problem of climate change and ecological destruction by educating our community on the importance and need for clean water. We aim to preserve and protect the watershed that nurtures us and provides our drinking water. We also recognize the responsibility of all who depend on our water to be good stewards of the
watershed we share.
Our work is to reach out to the larger community, including schools and churches, businesses and farmers, and various levels of government, to help all understand the importance of maintaining a healthy watershed. In cooperation with them, we will promote and engage in appropriate stewardship practices.
To do this Watershed NOW will also identify current and potential sources of local water pollution and sedimentation to improve water quality. We will encourage our community to understand how its actions impact the quality of our water and will engage the public actively in safeguarding its future. Watershed NOW will work with the community and its members to manage our landscapes and property so there is a positive impact on water quality and environmental sustainability.
3. We often take clean water for granted, but there are many threats to clean water. Although the Big Elkin Creek is not currently impaired, it is certainly threatened.
(a) Excess fertilizers, herbicides and insecticides flow directly into the creek upstream from Elkin.
(b) Oil, grease and toxic chemicals often flow off parking lots and streets directly into the Big Elkin Creek and the Yadkin River.
(c) Sediment from stormwater runoff from land along the creek makes it more difficult and more costly to treat the water we need to live on…and, if there is too much sediment, it can’t be treated at all.
(d) Bacteria and nutrients from livestock, pet wastes and faulty septic systems contaminate the water.
All This Is Preventable!
4. Thus far we have engaged with the Elkin City Schools to accomplish these highlights:
(a) The Elkin Middle School developed water-themed curriculum
(b) instructive presentations
(c) hands on projects such as stream restoration in the park and storm drain signage throughout town
(d) presentations at the Foothills Arts Council by Middle School Students of original photographs, poetry and music depicting water themes
(e) Sept 11th storm drain signage service project on the campus of Hugh Chatham Memorial Hospital
(f) rain garden planning on the Middle School campus to alleviate the effects of storm water runoff from impervious surfaces
(g) planning for and funding Authoring Action environmental curriculum enhancement in the High School for 2016-2017 school year. The first part of the project is targeted to reach all 9th graders and their families at Elkin High School. It will support the development of creative writing, spoken word, art and leadership skills…and provide relevant forums for youth to develop their voices about the value of our drinking water. The second part of the project will be to build the capacity for 4th graders to become change agents in their community by teaching them the value of conservation and protection of the community watershed. Students will learn about stream ecology, water quality issues…and their own connection to our watershed. A grant has been awarded by the Winston-Salem Foundation to fund part of the project and a proposal has been submitted to another foundation for funding for the remainder of the project.
5. We have conducted two successful Creek Weeks in the spring of 2015 and 2016.
6. We have begun to engage with area vineyards whose owners understand intimately the need for clean water and storm water runoff management. A successful benefit concert featuring Bandit’s Roost (a Watershed NOW partner) was held at Elkin Creek Vineyard and proceeds were used to help defray the costs of a stream restoration project at the vineyard.
7. We have funded community film presentations and speakers related to environmental issues. Two presentations highlighted the history of the Yadkin River and the Coal Ash issue.
8. We have partnered with local churches and encouraged and supported water stewardship-themed activities.
9. Watershed NOW has been instrumental in forming an alliance of landowners along Big Elkin Creek and representatives of governmental and non-governmental agencies which is now called Friends of Big Elkin Creek. The mission is “To improve and preserve the water quality of Big Elkin Creek.” We are planning a community meeting on August 25th at Elkin Creek Vineyard to explore with property owners along Big Elkin Creek and its major tributaries ways to work together to improve the water quality of Big Elkin Creek. The goal is to reduce sediment to levels sufficient that water can be withdrawn from the creek without fear of filling the reservoir with excess sediment or with water with so much sediment that the costs to process it at the treatment plant are prohibitive. A major indicator of success will be the visual observation of clear water after a rain event, as opposed to the red clay look currently observed after such an event.
Thus far, several farms have decided to rotate either winter cover crop with their tobacco crop or plant tobacco and grass in alternating strips. This will result in the reduction of approximately 2500 tons of soil entering Big Elkin Creek. At the same time, waterway repairs and silt fencing will be accomplished. We are confident other farmers will follow their lead as they realize the improved yield from their tobacco and the improved quality of water in Big Elkin Creek. Other potential projects have been identified which involve stream restoration and stormwater runoff management and funding will be sought for these projects.
10. We are beginning to work with the Town of Elkin to revise and enhance town zoning ordinances to better protect the water supply of Elkin and improve the water quality to help the development of an ecotourism industry in Elkin. We hope to help the town develop a stormwater management policy.
Stay tuned for more progress!