How to Help the Creek

Use creekwise gardening and landscaping practices. Make the most of your location next to a creek by helping to keep it healthy. Through proper care of stream banks and riparian vegetation, you can enhance your property, prevent erosion problems, avoid flood losses, preserve water quality, and contribute to the survival of fish and wildlife.

Pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers can run off into the creek. Fertilizers add excess nutrients to natural waters that lead to algae bloom, bad odors, and even fish kills. Never dispose of lawn clippings in a creek or on a creek bank. Soil and lawn clippings disposed in creeks become unsightly, destroy aquatic habitats, and cause diseases in trees. Take invasive species out – put local native species in.

Native plants and trees which specialize in growing within a creek corridor provide important habitat value unlike many exotic plants. Native species provide erosion protection during high water flows and generally recover quickly when waters subside. In times of flooding, a creek bank with native trees and plants may be your property's best protection.

Pave only when necessary. Paved surfaces increase runoff during storms and peak flows in creeks, adding to flooding and erosion problems. Paving also results in lower creek flows during the dry season. If you are planning to construct walkways, patios, driveways, or stormwater drains, consider alternatives with permeable surfaces to allow more rain water to soak into the ground. Never dispose of concrete, asphalt or other building materials in the creek.

Build away from the creek. Avoid locating structures such as decks, patios and storage sheds near the creek bank. Construction disturbs the soil and vegetation. Any structure built within reach of flood waters can be damaged or destroyed and may decrease the creek's ability to carry high water safely. It's best to maintain the area in a natural state. Some communities have creek setbacks which require structures be built at a certain minimum distance from the creek.

Check for erosion regularly and correct problems promptly. Erosion control need not be costly. Consider low-tech, lower-cost, creek-friendly alternatives such as planting with native riparian species to stabilize creek banks. Direct-seeding or direct-cutting installation of some species is easy and ecological if harvested from your own creek. The best erosion control is proper creek care along the entire waterway.

It is important for neighbors to cooperate in their efforts and share responsibility for maintaining a healthy creek. Be sure to seek professional advice and obtain necessary permits before taking action.

Don't Dump Pollutants! Motor oil, garbage, and pesticides find their way from streets and lawns into the creeks, where they degrade water quality for fish and birds, and kill the insects they eat.

Be Careful Where You Wash Your Car. Detergent and water on the street flow into the storm drains, which empty directly into creeks. Use a car wash (they filter their water), or use biodegradable soap and wash your car where the water will drain onto your lawn.

Protect Streamside Vegetation, including trees, shrubs, and ground cover. Trees and vegetation prevent erosion and provide essential shade that keeps water cool for fish and wildlife. Plant native and wildlife-attracting plants whenever possible, to restore natural habitat while you restore creek vegetation.

Keep your dog on the leash except in designated areas, and don't take it to delicate creek and wetland areas at all. Dogs are great, but even a friendly, well-trained dog can scare birds away from their nests and dig into nests and burrows.

Reference: Urban Creeks

Water Quality

Don’t dam or divert water from the stream.

Direct surface drainage away from streams and do not allow water to sheet flow over the stream bank.

Encourage infiltration by minimizing paving materials and installing pervious materials such as porous pavement.

Use vegetated buffer zones to reduce surface runoff into streams.

Do not drain pools or spas to the storm drain, gutter or creek. Chlorine and copper algaecides are toxic to aquatic life.

Dispose of vegetation debris, lawn clippings and animal waste with your household trash and greenwaste. Although biodegradable, too much organic material degrades the riparian habitat.


Riparian Vegetation and Fish

Plant riparian vegetation to provide shading of streams, where possible.

Use native watershed-specific plants or non-local California natives. When planting in riparian areas exclude invasive plants from your landscaping plan.

New native plantings may need irrigation to help ensure establishment but should be weaned from irrigation for long-term survival. Planting just before winter rains can help facilitate deep-rooting.

Remove invasive plants from riparian corridors, especially those which spread rapidly and degrade riparian habitat, such as pampas grass (Cortaderia selloana) and Arundo donax.

Do not place structures within the drip line of mature riparian trees, such as oak, sycamore, alder, etc.

Preserve in-stream and near-stream riparian vegetation whose canopies provide shade and nutrients for aquatic life.

Avoid removing woody debris, which provides fish habitat in streams.