Contact Claire Elliott

Have you ever noticed how quickly our local creeks fill with water, even after a brief rain? This is not natural. It is caused by the extensive areas of hardscape in our urban environment. The 40-70% of our local watershed areas that are covered with roads, parking lots, and buildings greatly restrict the amount of rainwater that can soak into the ground. Instead, the rainwater flows into storm drains and rushes to local creeks.

This “flashiness” (sudden spikes in creek flow) creates a host of problems. The stormwater is not cleaned in any way before it reaches the creeks, which means it can carry lethal doses of urban pollutants such as pesticides and fertilizers used in home gardens, oil dripped by cars onto pavements, and pet waste. When we force stormwater directly into the creeks, it cannot percolate into the ground and recharge the groundwater reserves that supply our community water needs.

The Greening Urban Watersheds program seeks to tame this excessive stormwater runoff. With funding from the Santa Clara Valley Water District and in partnership with the City of Palo Alto, we will conduct a series of hands-on public workshops to install rain barrels, cisterns, and rain gardens on city properties.  Workshop participants will learn how to install these rainwater catchment systems and leave with the inspiration and expertise to install similar projects in their own yards. Together, we are taking action to improve the health of our local urban watersheds.

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