Upper Richland Creek

The purple boundary in the map below outlines upper Richland Creek's watershed. When it rains, water that falls within this boundary eventually finds its way to the creek. The white boundary in the map below outlines the City of Forest Hills. The orange, brown, green, blue, and gray colored polygons within the map highlight varying land uses occurring within the City. Click the various polygons to uncover varying stewardship recommendations based on these land uses. 

The section of Richland Creek that runs through Forest Hills (blue line in map above) is considered unhealthy by the State of Tennessee as a result of three problems — Pathogens, Nutrients, and In-Stream Habitat Alteration

Photo by Jed Grubbs

Photo by Jed Grubbs

Pathogens indicate that water is contaminated by human or animal waste. In urban areas, pathogens end up in creeks when sewer lines leak or when dog owners don’t pick up their pet’s waste. Pathogen problems are most often linked with heavy rainfall, which can overwhelm older sewer systems and/or wash pathogens from neglected pet waste into our waterways. Pet waste that is left in the street, dog park, or even a person's backyard contributes to major water quality problems in Nashville.

 

Photo by John Moran

Photo by John Moran

Nutrient issues in streams result from over-fertilized urban lawns and gardens. Other sources include pet waste, municipal wastewater systems, and dishwashing detergent. When fertilizers exceed plant needs, are left out in the open, or are applied just before it rains, nutrients can wash into our waterways over land or seep into groundwater. High concentrations of nutrients, found in human and pet waste, all too often contaminate our waters via leaking sewer lines or neglected pet waste. Increased nutrient concentrations cause nuisance or toxic algae blooms in waterbodies, killing fish and aquatic life. High concentrations of nutrients must also be filtered from our drinking water, since they can cause methemoglobinemia, also known as blue baby syndrome.
 

Photo by Robert Lawton

Photo by Robert Lawton

In-Stream Habitat Alteration refers to lost in-stream habitat due to human modification of a waterway’s bed, banks, or flow. Modification of a stream’s bed or banks happens when streams are channelized, sent through culverts, dammed, dredged or filled. Out of stream infrastructure, such as curbs and gutters, storm-drains, and concrete ditches alter the rate of flow that enters a stream, quickly ushering water off impervious surfaces and sending it rushing into the stream channel. These modifications to streams result in an alteration of in-stream habitat. These alterations can disrupt aquatic species reproductive cycles or simply make living conditions impossible for some species.

 

HOW TO HELP WITH THESE PROBLEMS!

Pick up after your pet.
Pick up after your pet when s/he is on a walk, at the dog park, or in your own backyard. Dispose of this waste in the trash or toilet. Many pet stores and retailers sell biodegradable bags for picking up waste. Some companies in the region offer pet waste removal services. You can also start a pet education campaign in your neighborhood. Resources include:

This stewardship activity will address the pathogen and nutrient problems in Richland Creek. 

Allow for natural growth near waterways.
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 our waterways and provide other water quality benefits that far exceed those of a mowed lawn. Resources include:

This stewardship activity will address the pathogen, nutrient, and in-stream habitat alteration problems in Richland Creek. 

Use agricultural best management practices on pastureland.
Excluding farm animals from Richland Creek and providing them with alternative sources of water can prevent these animals from trampling streamside vegetation and defecating in the creek.

This stewardship activity will address the pathogen and nutrient problems in Richland Creek.

Plant a rain garden.
Rain gardens can filter and infiltrate stormwater that flows across your yard. Resources include:

This stewardship activity will address the pathogen, nutrient, and in-stream habitat alteration problems in Richland Creek. 

Plant natives.
Plant native plants and grasses in your yard. These require less water and fertilizer. Resources include:

This stewardship activity will address the pathogen, nutrient, and in-stream habitat alteration problems in Richland Creek. 

Limit fertilizers. 
Only use fertilizers when it's absolutely necessary. Follow application directions, and use only in recommended amounts according to the needs of your soil. Do not apply fertilizers before rainfall. 

This stewardship activity will address the nutrient problem in Richland Creek. 

Limit impervious surfaces.
Ensure that your downspouts drain to vegetation, gravel, or rainbarrels, rather than pervious surfaces, which contribute to polluted stormwater runoff. 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:

This stewardship activity will addresses the in-stream habitat alteration problems in Richland Creek. 

Remove unused dams or other human-made stream obstructions.
If you have an antiquated or unneeded dam or stream obstruction on your property, contact the Cumberland River Compact to discuss the feasibility of removing it. Walk the stream and inventory the location of any dams or obstructions, and let the Compact know so we can add these to our database or potential removal projects.

This stewardship activity will addresses the nutrient and in-stream habitat alteration problems in Richland Creek. 

Organize with others in your community. Make your voices heard and your votes count.
Participate in community planning efforts and advocate for relevant measures that improve or protect water quality. Write to your elected official or to the media and let them know this is a 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: 

Spread the word.
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.