When most people think of Austin they think of live music, breakfast tacos, and time spent enjoying the outdoors like hiking near Walnut Creek, swimming in Barton Springs or paddleboarding on the lake. Water is a key part of what makes Austin the place we love. Unfortunately much of what we do on the land impacts our waterways.
The Watershed Protection Department protects lives, property and the environment of our community by reducing the impact of flood, erosion and water pollution. One of the ways they do this is by giving community members a way to get involved. Learn more about non-point source pollution and how you can help.
Make a Difference – Volunteer!
Adopt-a-Creek - You have seen cute puppies and kittens looking for a good home but did you know that you can adopt a creek too? You can’t take it home with you but you can visit at least four times a year and in exchange for planting native plants and picking up litter you get time in nature and tons of cool giveaways like reusable workgloves, bags and a t-shirt.
Mark Storm Drains – To help prevent dumping in storm drains, volunteers place markers on the drains as a visual reminder that the storm drains run directly to our creeks. Volunteers can also distribute door hangers in the area to remind citizens that rain washes garden chemicals, pet waste, motor oil, and other pollutants from our yards, driveways, sidewalks, and all areas of land into our waterways.
Find out about volunteer projects like creating rainscapes, restoring creeks and more. Let other people take care of the logistics of the workday and simply show up to make a difference. (Sometimes breakfast tacos are there too.)
Clean Lady Bird Lake - hop in a canoe, on a paddle board or stroll along the banks of beautiful Lady Bird Lake while picking up trash. You can join one of the large-scale cleanups every other month or request free supplies to lead your own.
Indulge Your Creative Side
Visit Fresh Art. Fresh Water. In the Fall of 2015, ten local artists painted creek-themed designs on storm drains and hosted scavenger hunts around Austin to raise awareness and encourage community members to protect water quality. Check out the painted storm drain designs and take action (big or small) to show your #creeklove!
Grow Green Literature Live! Puppets – From February – April, 2016 you can enjoy a puppet show based off of Oscar Wilde’s, “The Selfish Giant” at Austin’s libraries. Click here to see the trailer and to find dates for a performance near you. Join the Grow Green characters as they help a gardener learn earth-wise gardening and welcome wildlife back into her garden.
· On a lighter note, you can read the Creekside Story Blog to find fun facts about current hot topics. (This month we’re talking about the Eliza Spring Daylighting project to improve endangered salamander habitat.)
· Are you interested in salamanders, a particular creek, or words like hydrostratigraphic? Search for you topic of choice in our Water Quality Publications Database.
· Grow Green educational pieces on topics like landscape design and how to treat common landscape pests.
· Kick back and read about the findings of our comprehensive biological, chemical and physical water quality monitoring results in the Environmental Integrity Index Watershed Summary Report
Take a class or join an interpretive hike
· Sign up to find out when registration opens up for our educational classes and hikes. Recent topics include: “Grass: The lawn and short of it.” and creekside restoration.
· On Saturday, December 5 from 9am-noon join WPD and the Austin Parks Foundation for a class on developing creekside restoration plans.
Dig Digital and Data?
· Enter your address to Find Your Watershed.
· Download the Austin Mechanics Recycle App to easily find where you can recycle vehicle fluids and tires.
Cool Kid Stuff!
You’re never too young to learn about our environment and how your actions impact it.
Splash! exhibit – Visit the free Splash! exhibit near Barton Springs to enjoy multimedia displays, interactive exhibits, and see an endangered Barton Springs salamander in person. You can also request a field trip and scout troops can get help earning a Water Badge.
School programs – Let the teacher in your life know about these youth education programs that provide elementary, middle and high school outreach, field trips, curriculum and service learning opportunities.
Clean Creek Camp – Why should kids have all the fun?! Guardians, join your 9-13 children for a week of fun exploring water in Austin’s creeks or Edwards Aquifer. Dates for summer 2016 will be set soon.
Activity Kits – Check out an activity kit with things like a watershed model or a litter lifeline to help teach youth about urban ecology and our natural environment.
Color a mask – Native plant and salamander masks are available for you to print and color while learning about their place in Austin’s ecology.
Are you new to Austin and not sure what to plant or have you lived here all of your life but you’re convinced you don’t have a green thumb? Take advantage of this program’s wide variety of resources to help create a garden that you can relax in and be proud of. www.GrowGreen.org
Demonstration Gardens: Sometimes the best way to get inspiration is to see things in person. Visit one of our demonstration gardens to get your creative gardening juices flowing.
Pick the right plant for the right place. A secret of people with green thumbs is that they pick plants that are well suited to the place they’ll be planted and are hardy. Find the right plant for you with this searchable database or downloadable plant guide.
Do It Yourself Videos – In just a couple of minutes you can get a crash course in how to do things like properly mulch trees or how to create a wildlife habitat.
Rainscapes – Rainscapes include rain gardens, berms, and other techniques to keep water on the land. If you create one on a school you can get a free interpretive sign and if you are interested in making your own you may qualify for a Waterwise Rainscape Rebate.
Give the Gift of – An Oil Change Bucket
Do you have someone in your life who loves working on their car? Put together a gift bucket that includes car care products and kitty litter to help cleanup spills proudly displayed in a cheerful and FREE reusable oil change bucket.
Connect with Us and Get Social
Article Submitted by Jessica Wilson, Environmental Conservation Program Manager, Watershed Protection.