Yes, we all live in a watershed – and when you live next to a creek, your actions have a more immediate effect on water quality and the environment. We developed the CreekWise brochure with helpful tips on how to be a good creek neighbor and contact information on water district programs. Please ensure that you are using the best practices when working near a stream, creek or river:
Use creekwise gardening and landscaping practice
- Pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers can run off into the creek. Nitrates and phosphates from excess fertilizers and other sources which enter the stream have the potential to disrupt the natural food chain, causing accelerated growth of some plants (algae blooms) and harming others, can be life threatening to fish and other aquatic life.
- Never dispose of lawn clippings in a creek or on a creek bank. Soil and lawn clippings disposed in creeks can block the creek flow and create a flood hazard, destroy aquatic habitats, and cause diseases in trees.
- Remove your pet waste immediately and dispose of properly. Bacteria and pathogens from many animal sources are washed into the streams, potentially rendering these waters unsafe.
- Avoid excess watering – the runoff into the creek will cause pollution and potentially erode the bank over time.
Remove invasive species and replace with local native plants
- Native plants and trees which specialize in growing within a creek corridor provide important habitat value unlike many exotic plants.
- Native species provide erosion protection during high water flows and generally recover quickly when waters subside.
- In times of flooding, a creek bank with native trees and plants may be your property's best protection.
Pave only when necessary
- Paved surfaces increase runoff during storms and peak flows in creeks, adding to flooding and erosion problems. Paving also results in lower creek flows during the dry season and lessens ground water recharge.
- If you are planning to construct walkways, patios, driveways, or stormwater drains, consider alternatives with permeable surfaces to allow more rain water to soak into the ground. Never dispose of concrete, asphalt or other building materials in the creek.
Limit artificial lighting
- Glare from artificial lights can impact wetland habitats that are home to amphibians such as frogs and toads, whose nighttime croaking is part of the breeding ritual. Artificial lights disrupt this nocturnal activity, interfering with reproduction.
- In addition, night time lighting interferes with the natural nocturnal ecology for the predators that use light to hunt and the prey species that use darkness as cover.
Build away from the creek
- Avoid locating structures such as decks, patios and storage sheds near the creek bank. Construction disturbs the soil and vegetation.
- Any structure built within reach of flood waters can be damaged or destroyed and may decrease the creek's ability to carry high water safely. It's best to maintain the area in a natural state.
- Some communities have creek setbacks which require structures be built at a certain minimum distance from the creek.
Check for erosion regularly and correct problems promptly - Be sure to seek professional advice and a permit from the water district before acting: “Access Valley Water – GO” or call 408-265-2600.
- It is important that you not conduct any work on the creek or bank if the area belongs to the water district – please contact us immediately if you see signs of erosion of the creek bank: (http://www.valleywater.org – Click: “Access Valley Water – GO” or call 408-265-2600)
- Erosion control need not be costly. Consider low-tech, lower-cost, creek-friendly alternatives such as planting with native riparian species to stabilize creek banks.
- Direct-seeding or direct-cutting installation of some species is easy and ecological if harvested from your own creek.
- The best erosion control is proper creek care along the entire waterway.
- It is important for neighbors to cooperate in their efforts and share responsibility for maintaining a healthy creek.
Correct or avoid encroachments onto public property
- District property is public property and must be kept clear of any private storage, dumping, drainage, concrete, structures, fences or any other encroachment.
- Encroachments can block access to fallen trees or flooded areas in times of an emergency.
- Encroachments can also block or impeded access to district crews when providing routine flood protection maintenance or bank repairs.
- If you have any questions about your property line, your deed or the County’s Assessor’s Office can provide guidance: https://www.sccassessor.org – Enter your address in “Property Record Search” then click “Print Assessor’s Parcel Map”