Friday, January 6, 2012

Water Quality Starts Here

Stone Run isn’t much to look at. There really isn’t much to it. It is a small stream that flows through hay fields and suburban yards, and according to a study done by the Center for Watershed Protection (, it’s one of the tributaries to the Octoraro Creek with the most problems which include high levels of nutrients, impaired stream habitat and impacted biota. It’s an everyday stream, one that flows through our neighborhoods, one that we all see but hardly notice as we hustle through our daily schedules.

There are a few sections that hold a lot of hope since they have excellent habitat, and diverse biota. But overall, Stone Run is a poor quality stream. The particular stretch I was about to enter didn’t hold much promise either. It was rated as poor based on stream habitat, connection to the floodplain, and biota diversity. A sewage treatment lagoon was on one bank and a pasture on the other. The reach was just below route 1. I didn’t expect to see much, and questioned the sanity of going through the hassle of putting all this gear on to get into freezing water to see nothing.

The substrate seemed fake. Imported stone brought in to keep the outside bank from eroding through to the sewage lagoon, and stone left over from route 1 construction mixed with the native geology. It all looked artificial and out of place. But there was life here and where there is life, there is hope. Caddis grazed in the riffles and common shiners foraged in the eddies. I could have laid there for hours watching the caddis in their crystalline particle cases clean algae from the rocks, but it didn’t take long for the cold to penetrate the layers through to my skin.

There is hope for even this impaired section of stream. The Center for Watershed Protection and the Octoraro Creek Watershed Association ( have come up with a list concrete, realistic actions that will improve the quality of Stone Run. Some of these are easy things we can all do like install rain barrels and rain gardens and plant forested buffers. Water quality starts here in this tiny stream, with these simple actions.

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