Cabin John Creek flows under the MacArthur Blvd. bridge.

Cabin John Creek flows under the MacArthur Blvd. bridge.

Our theme for March is “Planting the Seeds of Sustainability,” and we’ve chosen to feature an article about reviving urban streams.

Our streams in the inner suburbs are in trouble; in general, they suffer from too much stormwater runoff, too many pollutants and too much trash. Sewage leaks also affect our streams. The Cabin John Creek watershed, for example, has poor water quality and its streams frequently contain fecal bacteria above levels considered safe for the public. The Rock Creek watershed also has a bacteria problem, while the Anacostia watershed suffers from too much sediment, nutrients (I think this means nitrogen and phosphorus), bacteria and trash.

What I learned while researching my article, “To Revive Urban Streams, Think Small,” (published in the winter issue of the Audubon Naturalist News) is that the inner suburbs are at a point where there are few, if any, large measures that can be taken to reduce stormwater flows. These areas are so developed and contain so many impervious surfaces, that rain water rushes into them in volumes that overwhelm the health of the stream. Montgomery County can’t build stormwater retention ponds and other remedies in many places downcounty, because there’s precious little land left.

The upshot is that private landowners — homeowners, businesses, places of worship — will have to take actions on their properties in order to start restoring the health of these streams. Visit the Bethesda Green site for a link to my article, which describes some ways landowners can help, then return here to post your comments. Will you take action to help the streams? Can we restore them in part or in whole?

–written by Dan Kulpinski