Total Dissolved Solids

Total dissolved solids (TDS) indicate the amount of ions, including salts and metals, dissolved in a certain amount of water. Some dissolved ions in water are common, such as some CO 2 from respiration by organisms, or salts in saltwater. However, above certain levels, TDS can be detrimental to ecosystems. Anthropogenic sources of high TDS are common, and include agricultural/pesticide runoff, sewage discharge, or increased salinity from de-icing salts. 

The implications of TDS can be extremely difficult to explore, as the measurement does not differentiate between the different ions dissolved in water. Some ions may be beneficial, like nutrients, while some may be deleterious, like metals. Each type of substance can have a different effect on the physiology of the organisms in the environment.

The best way to lower the TDS level of your local creeks or rivers is by prevention.

How You Can help

Are you a member of a group or organization in your community that would be interested in adopting this waterway? Contact the Cumberland River Compact if you’re interested in learning more about stream adoption.

Deicing can be extremely detrimental to aquatic ecosystems. Make use of non-toxic options where possible. Encourage those responsible for significant deicing activity in your community to consider non-toxic or less toxic options.

Resources include:
1) How to Reduce the Environmental Impact of Deicing Roads - Pacific Northwest Pollution Prevention Resource Center
2) Explore a variety of eco-friendly deicing options in EPA’s Safer Choice list . - EPA
3) Managing Highway Deicing to Prevent Contamination of Drinking Water. - EPA

If you live or work next to a waterway, leave a 35′ to 100′ no mow zone on its banks. Allow natural and native plant growth in this buffer area or plant native trees, bushes, and groundcover. This vegetation can filter pollutants before they reach your waterway and provide other water quality benefits that far exceed those of a mowed lawn. Native plants and grasses require less watering and fertilizer and also provide important habitat for native species of wildlife.

Resources include:
1) Free trees for Tennesseans during TEC's annual statewide 100K Tree Day - TN Environmental Council
2) Tennessee Aquatic Stream Clean Up and Riparian Tree Grant (Scroll to bottom of linked page for more info) - TN Wildlife Resources Agency
3) General Guidelines for Volunteer Based Riparian Buffer Plantings - TN Environmental Council
4) Improving Stream Channels With Live Staking - UT Extension
5) Tennessee Urban Riparian Buffer Handbook - TN Dept. of Agriculture
6) Landscaping with Native Plants in West, Middle, and East TN - TN Wildlife Resources Agency
7) Native Plants for TN - UT Extension
8) Forest Stewardship Program and Landowner Services - KY Division of Forestry
9) Plant Availability Guide - KY Department of Agriculture
10) State Nurseries and Tree Seedlings - KY Division of Forestry

Rain gardens can filter and infiltrate stormwater that flows across your yard.

Resources include:
1) Rain Gardens - A Resource Guide - Cumberland River Compact and Metro Nashville
2) TN Native Rain Garden Plants - UT Extension
3) Rain Gardens for Tennessee - UT Extension
4) Rain Gardens Educator's Toolkit, Rain Gardens for Tennessee Site Summary, and Rain Garden Facts and Tips - UT Extension
5) Rain Garden How-to Brochure - Harpeth River Watershed Association
6) Rain Garden Guide for Middle Tennesseans by Patty Ghertner
7) Start-to-Finish Rain Garden Workbook - Harpeth River Watershed Association
8) Rain Garden Workshop Guide - TN Environmental Council
9) Landscaping with Native Plants in West, Middle, and East TN - TN Wildlife Resources Agency
10) Native Plants for TN - UT Extension
11) Plant Availability Guide - KY Department of Agriculture

Impervious or impermeable surfaces, like pavement, contribute significantly to polluted stormwater runoff and alter stream flow habitat. If you've got excess pavement you'd like removed, consider a de-paving project with the Compact. Elsewhere, ensure that your downspouts drain to vegetation, gravel, or rainbarrels, rather than impervious surfaces. If you constructing or repairing your driveway, pervious pavement allows stormwater to infiltrate and filter through the ground. If you can’t do the whole drive, consider making only the portion closest to the street pervious.

Resources include:
1) De-paving Work - Cumberland River Compact (Call 615-837-1151)
2) Rain Barrel Sales - Cumberland River Compact
3) Rain Barrels Make Good Sense - UT Extension

Excluding farm animals from this waterway and providing them with alternative sources of water can prevent animals from trampling streamside vegetation and defecating in the waterway.

Resources include:
1) Natural Resources Conservation Service offers a number of programs that can provide technical or financial assistance to landowners interested in employing agricultural best management practices. Potential programs may include: the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program, Conservation Stewardship Program, Conservation Technical Assistance Program, and Environmental Quality Incentives Program.
2) Agricultural Resources Conservation Fund - TN Department of Agriculture
3) Water Quality Best Management Practices Calendar - UT Extension
4) Habitat How-To's provides information for adopting common habitat management practices when developing an overall farm plan - KY Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources
5) Equipment Loans - KY Division of Conservation
6) State Cost Share Program - KY Division of Conservation
7) Beneficial Conservation Practices for Farmers - Harpeth River Watershed Association

Fertilizers, pesticides and other pollutants can attach themselves to soil particles and find their way to your creek.

Resources include:
1) Soil Test to Determine Fertilizer Needs of Your Soil - University of Tennessee Soil, Plant, and Pest Center
2) How to Soil Sample a Lawn or Garden - UT Extension
3) Principles of Home Landscape Fertilization - UT Extension
4) Lawn and Garden Pesticide Use - UT Extension
5) Pest Control Alternatives and Best Practices - TN Department of Environment and Conservation
6) River Smart Gardening Tips - Harpeth River Watershed Association

Water related infrastructure is expensive and obtaining funding for necessary sewer and water treatment improvements is often a challenge for communities. However, public dollars are critical to our water quality and public health. Support your community's efforts to properly maintain it's water related infrastructure.

Resources include:
1) America's Infrastructure Report Card - American Society of Civil Engineers
2) How Sewage Pollution Ends Up in Rivers - American Rivers
3) Greening Water Infrastructure - American Rivers

Participate in community planning efforts and advocate for relevant measures that improve or protect water quality. Write to your elected official and let them know this is concern or invite them to speak about the impairment with your home-owners association. When elections come up, vote for candidates who will address the problem and hold them accountable to their promises. Support local watershed / environmental associations.

Resources include:
1) Advocacy Toolkit - TN Environmental Council
2) Find Your Legislators - Federal Legislators; State Legislators (KY/TN); Local Legislators (KY/TN)

Do your neighbors, family, or roommates know about the problem? Now that you know how to be an effective steward, enlist the help of others in your neighborhood. Share iCreek or resources within it with your neighbors and encourage them to join the effort to protect your creek.