By Femke Oldham
We ask a lot of our watersheds. We count on them for shade and cool breezes, for fish to catch and eat, for pollinators to help our gardens grow, for peaceful places to stroll and relax, and of course, for clean and plentiful water. Our watersheds provide us with much of what it means to be a resident of the Bay Area, and in doing so, they define our lifestyle.
It’s easy to enumerate the many consequences of global climate change for our local watersheds. Flooding, drought, and coastal erosion are just a few projected impacts to the Bay Area over the next fifty years. It’s much harder to define exactly what we as individuals, families, and communities can do to prevent these impacts. At The Watershed Project, we are always considering the relationship between climate change, watershed protection, and community stewardship. We’ve come to the conclusion that much of what we in the watershed community have been doing since we opened our doors in 1997 is inherently related to the battle against climate change.
Restoring creek banks by planting natives and removing invasive species helps prevent erosion and also provides more green space in urban areas to help cool down our environment. Planting rain gardens, swales, and other Low Impact Design elements helps retain stormwater, thereby reducing the chance of flooding. Cleaning up trash and pollutants of concern helps ensure that the precious surface water supply that is available in the Bay Area remains viable for drinking, fishing, and recreation. Restoration of native oysters and other subtidal species helps create underwater buffer zones to protect our shorelines from sea level rise and storm surges.
The connections between watershed protection and adaptation to climate change are abundant. In fact, we believe that watershed protection IS adaptation. By caring for our creeks and shoreline, we are building up the immune systems of our watersheds so that when climate sicknesses do hit—be they floods, fire, extreme temperatures, or drought—the impacts will not be as disastrous.
In the face of global climate change, it’s high time that we recognize the countless services that our local watersheds provide to us. It is critical for us to take steps to keep them healthy and strong to ensure a sustainable future for our environment and for ourselves. So consider joining the watershed movement by participating in a creek care work day, incorporating resource stewardship into your daily life, or donating to our cause. Together, we can create a resilient Bay Area.