Bringing Oysters back to the Eastern Branch of the Elizabeth River

Once a thriving tidal river, the Eastern Branch of the Elizabeth River became known as the lost branch when it fell from public awareness. Stemming from this lack of awareness, it also became one of the most polluted tributaries in the watershed. The Elizabeth River Project and partners have set out to change that, with public awareness campaigns and multi-sector partnerships to restore urban shorelines with native oysters. Because of these efforts the Chesapeake Bay Program now recognizes the Eastern Branch of the Elizabeth River fully restored for oyster habitat; and there have been significant improvements in water quality demonstrating that large-scale restoration with multiple community partners can restore an once dead urban waterway.

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The South Platte: an Urban River and Critical Watershed

The South Platte River Urban Waters Partnership (SPRUWP) focuses on the headwaters and the Denver metropolitan area, and consists of over seventy organizations, including Federal and state government, municipalities, universities, NGOs and private businesses, all collaborating to address the problems facing the South Platte and improve this vital waterway for current and future generations — as well as those who live downstream of Denver.

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#EstuarioRevive: Monitoring, Restoration and Resiliency in the San Juan Bay Estuary

When Hurricane Maria struck in September 2017, septic and power systems in the San Juan Bay Estuary failed and crucial habitats were destroyed as had been predicted by the vulnerability assessment conducted four years earlier. Although Estuario was prepared to respond, guided by the adaptation plans established in 2015, aging infrastructure, continued development in the watershed, and intense hurricane forces multiplied the impacts of flooding and water pollution. In the aftermath of the storm, it was very clear to Estuario leaders that aggressive actions needed to be taken to increase both the ecological and economic resiliency of the watershed. Estuario doubled-down on its efforts with #EstuarioRevive, an initiative designed to implement projects to monitor, restore, and increase the resilience efforts of the San Juan Bay Estuary.

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Green the Green Network: Coordinated Revegetation Along the Green-Duwamish River

Partnerships and strong communication between government agencies and non-government organizations are key elements to overcoming the barriers to revegetation efforts of the urban sections of the Green-Duwamish River. The Green the Green Network (GGN) was developed over the last year under leadership of the Urban Waters Federal Ambassador, the King County Lower Green River Basin Steward and representatives from Forterra and American Rivers. With the intention of formalizing a partnership with clear goals and direction, leaders created the GGN to implement coordinated revegetation efforts in the watershed.

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Water Trails 101: Get on the Right Course

Join the National Water Trails Learning Network to step through the phases of water trail development, discuss the challenges and successes faced when creating and sustaining river access, and dive into a case study of a successful national water trail.

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Partners in Northwest Indiana are Leading People to the Water

Together, partners in the Northwest Indiana area are leading people to the water. The LaPorte Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) – established in 1937 by the Indiana Soil Conservation Act – plays a vital role in both the Trail Creek Watershed Partnership and the Northwest Indiana Federal Partnership. They offer a variety of programs that educate and empower the community to take an active role in protecting their environment. In addition, the LaPorte SWCD is involved in watershed planning, advocating and implementing best management practices within the Trail Creek Watershed.

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Partnerships, Education, and Action in Northwest Indiana

| LaPorte, IN

The LaPorte Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) – established in 1937 by the Indiana Soil Conservation Act – helps residents of Indiana to conserve land, water, forests, wildlife and natural resources within the state of Indiana. Initiatives of the … Continued

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Plaster Creek Stewards

| Grand Rapids, MI

The Plaster Creek Stewards initiative began at Calvin College in 2009 to provide experiential education and a working lab for students. Through several Michigan Department of Environmental Quality grants, EPA Urban Waters grants, support from the Urban Waters community, and … Continued

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LA River Report Card: Heal the Bay Encourages Public Health and Community Engagement

With new water uses in these sections of the LA River and more revitalization on the horizon, water quality monitoring for public health and community engagement becomes chiefly important. Heal the Bay – an organization based in Santa Monica, California – has a strong history promoting environmental awareness and advocating for public health through their Beach Report Card program. Over the years they have found that when people are informed about water quality issues, they are more motivated to take care of their environment. In cooperation with students from Los Angeles Trade Technical College (LATTC) and funded by EPA’s Urban Waters small grant program, Heal the Bay expanded this initiative to create a River Report Card for the LA River and other freshwater areas where people recreate and swim.

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Combining Service Learning and Recreation for Stewardship

| New Orleans

Service learning is a powerful tool for connecting people and their communities to local parks and natural areas. To celebrate the centennial of the National Park Service, the REI Foundation partnered with the National Park Foundation to fund projects that introduce underserved, inner-city youth to their nearby national parks and engage them in service projects to improve them. The project purpose is to foster stewardship among participants, help them to discover opportunities for outdoor recreation, and instill the value of nature and our nations’ parks—both national and local.

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Oklahoma City’s Drinking Water in a Struggling Watershed

In 2012, the Oklahoma Water Resources Board (OWRB) received an EPA Urban Waters Small Grant, sub-granted by the Oklahoma Secretary of Energy and Environment, to study the causes of the eutrophic conditions in Lakes Hefner and Overholser and to evaluate which Best Management Practices (BMPs) could significantly reduce the nutrient load affecting water quality in the lakes. Originally, the study focused on identifying BMPs that could be implemented in the lakes themselves. However, it was found that most of the pollution was coming from urban runoff entering the North Canadian River.

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Photo of Lake Overholser

An Equitable Water Future: a National Briefing Paper

This U.S. Water Alliance publication summarizes the overarching and regional challenges that demonstrate the need for more equitable approaches, then outlines the “three pillars of equity” based on USWA’s original research, as well as data from PolicyLink. The report goes … Continued

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Urban Waters Community Improvement Plan

| Malden, Medford, and Everett, MA

The Mystic River Watershed Association (MyRWA) is dedicated to restoring and protecting the most urbanized watershed in Massachusetts. It partners with federal, state, and local agencies, using science—including citizen science—to influence public policy. Its signature programs include a 15-year old … Continued

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Restoring the Wabash River in the Heart of Indiana

The Wabash River, which is Indiana’s state river, has a rich economic and cultural history. As a tributary of the Ohio River, it is part of the upper reaches of the 1,245,000-square-mile Mississippi River Basin, and so was a vital navigation and trade route for French traders traveling between Canada and the Gulf of Mexico.

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The Emerald Necklace: Connecting the Mountains to the Sea

The San Gabriel River drains a 713-mile watershed in the San Gabriel Mountains, flowing as far south as Long Beach, where it enters Alamitos Bay as a tidal river. It shares its watershed with two other major rivers: the Los Angeles and the Santa Ana.

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Connecting a River to the Fabric of a City’s Culture and History

The headwaters of the San Antonio River originate in Bexar County, from which it begins a 240-mile journey through six counties toward San Antonio Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. From Spain’s colonization efforts to the emergence of San Antonio as the second most populous city in Texas, the area’s rich history and culture have been shaped by the San Antonio River.

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The Duwamish Valley Youth Corps

| Seattle, WA

The Duwamish is Seattle’s only river. It is a 5.5 mile long Superfund site that flows through Seattle’s Duwamish Valley – a highly developed urban and industrial center south of downtown. In 2014, the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition Technical Advisory Group (DRCC/TAG) founded the Duwamish Valley Youth Corps (DVYC) with support from the Forest Service’s Urban Waters Federal Partnership. The DVYC supports environmental improvement projects identified by residents in the Duwamish River Valley. With a focus on urban forestry, river restoration, and green infrastructure, the program is equal parts environmental science, job skills training, stewardship, and hands-­on restoration.

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Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition

Reawakened Beauty: Place-Based Learning on the Jordan River

| Salt Lake County, UT

In 2008, many Utah organizations came together to develop a long-range plan for the Jordan River that laid out a vision for a revitalized river corridor. The Jordan River Commission was created to spearhead this plan, and it has been successful in building partnerships with organizations now working together to implement this vision. These collaborations have led to a new public appreciation for the river corridor as a recreational amenity and opportunity for conservation, environmental education, and community building.

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Jordan River, Salt Lake County, Utah. Photo: Jordan River Commission.

Reclaiming Urban Waterways—Daylighting the Saw Mill River

Few environmental projects focus community attention as dramatically as those that seek to create (or retrieve) parks and trails along urban waterways. The Groundwork network has achieved significant success on such projects, including the Saw Mill River Daylighting Park in Yonkers, NY; the Spicket River Greenway in Lawrence, MA; the Elizabeth River Greenway in Elizabeth, NJ; and the Mill Creek Greenway in Cincinnati.

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Stream Processes-A Guide to Living in Harmony with Streams

This wonderful guide, developed by the Chemung Soil and Water Conservation District in Horseheads, NY, has detailed, yet extremely understandable language and graphics (as well as humor) for people to be able to really understand our love-hate relationship with streams–especially … Continued

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Creek Care Guide–A Stewardship Guide

Developed by Prescott Creeks in Prescott, Arizona, this guide offers practical tips on creek-friendly practices that will help keep our creeks, lakes, and community healthy––starting at your home or business. The stewardship guide is a water quality primer for residents … Continued

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Daylighting: New Life for Buried Streams

Report describing the process of daylighting streams. Daylighting projects liberate waterways that were buried in culverts or pipes or otherwise removed from view and re-establishes a waterway in its old channel where feasible, or a new channel. Download this resource

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Multifaceted Methods Help Restore the Mystic River

| Arlington, MA

Momentum for improving the Mystic River got started in 1969 when various agencies and local planning departments published a report outlining plans to tackle the high levels of pollution and improve recreational opportunities on the Mystic River Reservation, a publicly-owned nature preserve. By the early 1980’s, greenways with bike and pedestrian trails started to be installed.

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Centennial Creek Restoration Project

Centennial Creek, a tributary of the Salinas River, begins east of the City of Paso Robles, California and flows into the Salinas River on the west side of town. The Salinas River flows into the Monterrey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. This is significant because any improvements made to Centennial Creek, though miles away, will positively impact the marine sanctuary.

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2015 Rogue Estuary Strategic Plan

A strategic plan to guide restoration, enhancement, and conservation efforts in the estuary and its tributaries; emphasizing wetlands, floodplain connectivity, off-channel habitat, and water quality. Download this resource

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Citizen-led Monitoring of Urban Wetland Restoration in New Orleans

The Citizen-led Monitoring of Urban Wetland Restoration in New Orleans creates active wetland advocates by placing technology into community members’ hands, especially in those of low-income Lake Pontchartrain residents. This effort was supported in part by a $50,000 Urban Waters Small Grant funded by EPA.

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Addressing Baltimore’s Vacant Land Problem

Baltimore, Maryland, home to over 30,000 vacant and abandoned lots and numerous economically disadvantaged neighborhoods, is also home to some of the most innovative job creation strategies and vacant lot reclamation projects in the nation.

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Making Space for Monarchs and Students

In 2014 The University of Arizona (UA) received support from the U.S EPA in the form of funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF).

This funding was used to supplement the restoration efforts conducted through Project WET; a project of the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension – Maricopa County. With this NFWF funding, UA was able to weave Monarch Butterfly habitat creation into their existing program.

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Connecting Residents to Village Creek

| Birmingham, AL

Village Creek, which flows through the heart of Birmingham, was once considered one of the most polluted streams in Alabama. Today, thanks to the Freshwater Land Trust, and with significant support from the U.S. EPA, there is new hope. The Freshwater Land Trust has gathered together community, non-profit, city and business leaders who are working together to transform Village Creek into a community asset.

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Transforming Mill Creek

| Cincinnati, OH

Twenty years ago, in some inner-city stretches of Mill Creek, the only living things you could find were blood worms, sludge worms, and leeches. In the summertime, fish kills were common. Carp that ventured into the stream from the Ohio River would flop onto the stream banks and die. Many species of aquatic and terrestrial wildlife
vanished from the river corridor for over 100 years because their habitat and food sources had been destroyed by intense urbanization.

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Engaging Community and Tracking Habitat Health

Funded by an EPA Urban Waters Small Grant, the Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed Association and the Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council teamed up with the Rhode Island Dept. of Environmental Mgmt. and other partners to develop a fish community monitoring program for Rhode Island’s wadeable urban rivers and streams. Program goals are to assess changes to habitat health, target locations for water quality restoration initiatives, engage community members in citizen science initiatives, and provide water quality information to the public.

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The Old Smoky Hill River Channel

In 2012 the Pollution Prevention Institute at Kansas State University was awarded a $60,000 urban waters small grant from EPA, part of which was used to conduct water quality monitoring in the river channel in addition to engaging the public in the removal of invasive species along the river bank. Intended outcomes of their project include establishing an understanding of the pollutants present in the river and helping create a more informed public which understands the importance and process of maintaining the integrity of the river channel.

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A Watershed Plan is Born

In 2012 Groundwork Denver received funding from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment through the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) 319 Nonpoint Source funds. With EPA’s funding Groundwork Denver has successfully created a non-point source watershed plan for the Lower Bear Creek.

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