July 29, 2015
WATERSHED COUNCIL PILOTS WATER-SLOWING LANDSCAPING PROJECT TO CONFRONT POLLUTION
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JULY 2015, SEDONA, AZ – Flooding and high sediment flows during monsoon season have become increasingly problematic for property owners of the Settler’s Rest Neighborhood in West Sedona. Stormwater draining from private properties into the city drainages carries with it organic and inorganic pollutants including E. coli bacteria into Oak Creek, exacerbating existing pollution issues. This April, the Oak Creek Watershed Council (OCWC) began an innovative and community based approach to addressing both the flooding issues and the non-point source pollution inputs into Oak Creek by working with business and property owners on landscaping practices that help to keep more stormwater on properties.
E. coli bacteria is naturally occurring in perennial waterways like Oak Creek , but recreation activity along the creek and accumulation of pollutants from run-off within the watershed at large can lead to spikes in E. coli levels, creating environmental and public health risks. Stormwater from the Settler’s Rest neighborhood drains into Carroll Canyon and subsequently into Oak Creek. OCWC water quality studies have shown that Carroll Canyon is the largest single contributing area of E. coli bacteria within the watershed. Mitigating problems associated with high levels of eroded sediment, pet-waste and other non-point source pollutants in stormwater flowing off of private properties through “green infrastructure” landscaping and management practices is the primary goal of the Settler’s Rest Stormwater Pilot Project (SRSP).
“Slowing, spreading and sinking water close to where it lands happens to be one of the easiest and most affordable way to invest stormwater mitigation,” says OCWC Grant Manager and permaculture specialist, Ryan Matson. “Even if the rains come few and far between, green infrastructure can provide vital habitat and vegetation, welcome shade from the hot sun, and an opportunity to trap pollutants before they reach "grey" infrastructure, like curbs and gutters, culverts and channels. Catching and keeping the rainwater close to home helps to address water quality and public health issues and saves a lot of money and ground water too.”
Funded through a grant with the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ), the participating SRSP properties are receiving funding for landscaping and infrastructure including elements such as rain gardens, swales, berms and basins, as well as gutters, rain barrels and cisterns. Property owners work with a native plants specialist who consults on plantings that blend with their existing landscaping. Vegetation is an integral element to the rainwater harvesting process; native gramma, bear, and deer grasses help retain the collected water and sediment. Species like native sunflowers, prickly pear, and ticktrefoil will be planted to attract pollinators and to act as phytoremediators, breaking down organic pollutants that might otherwise be carried downstream during storm events.
Oak Creek Watershed Council (OCWC) has worked for 20 years to advocate for a clean and healthy watershed; the SRSP is the Council’s newest project. It addresses the roots of the non-point source pollution, and aims to help the community re-think and re-value the way that water cycles through Sedona. OCWC Executive Director, Marie McCormick, says “By working with property owners on green infrastructure design and installations, this pilot project offers an opportunity to engage with the Sedona community in a new, dynamic and long-lasting way. It is our hope that as residents see how beautiful, economical and beneficial rainwater harvesting elements can be in their backyards and to the greater watershed, green infrastructure practices will be adopted across the community.”
Unity of Sedona Spiritual Center is one of the pilot project participants, Linda Mae Costello sits on their board of directors and has taken an active role in the community clean water workshops at Unity. "We are so excited to work with the OCWC on this important project,” says Costello. “We love seeing the impact of the changes to the way rainwater flows on our property now, which reduces erosion as well as sustains our landscape in beautiful ways. We are thrilled to be able to participate in something that benefits the community and Oak Creek; we care deeply about living in harmony with the Earth, and have great respect for the multi-dimensionality of this work. We are so grateful to the OCWC for providing this opportunity to participate and educate others in such a noble cause."
While the pilot project is limited to the Settlers Rest neighborhood, Sedona-area residents and business owners are welcome to learn about green infrastructure practices through hands-on Community Clean Water Workshops throughout the summer. Tours of the properties will also be scheduled in early fall of 2015 to showcase the work of the project and educate area residents on options for using low impact development techniques. Individuals interested in learning more about the project can do so on the Oak Creek Watershed Council’s website, www.oakcreekwatershed.org.
The Oak Creek Watershed Council is a nonprofit 501 (c) (3). It is dedicated to maintaining a standard of excellence for watershed stewardship, as well as preserving the integrity of Oak Creek, and its tributaries.