From MidCoast Watershed Councils:
As we have all been enjoying this year’s warmer and drier weather, streams are both heating up and shrinking, which spells trouble for fish. River and stream water levels and temperatures usually seen in October have been around since early July.
“While we’re not yet seeing the fish kills that have plagued the Willamette and Columbia Rivers over the past month “we need to all work together to help the fish in our coastal systems” offers Paul Engelmeyer, chair of the MidCoast Watersheds Council. “While people often think of the Coast as wet and cool, we actually have a Mediterranean climate – lots of precipitation in winter and spring, but very little in the summer, when water demand and need for humans, fish and wildlife are the highest. There are 13 public water districts are drawing water from 22 streams from Lincoln City to Yachats.
Research has shown that juvenile coho salmon and steelhead are stressed by higher water temperatures because they rear in freshwater over the hot summer and fall months. Research clearly indicates that coho, cutthroat and yearling steelhead rearing densities decreased as temperatures exceeded 63°F and coho salmon juveniles were absent in waters that reached 70 – 73° F. They are forced to find pockets of cold waters called thermal refuge (e.g. groundwater seeps, beaver ponds, small waterfalls or entering tributaries). Juvenile coho cannot thrive or live in streams where the weekly maximum temperature exceeds 65°F for any length of time.
The fact that our coastal streams are already listed as impaired because stream temperatures are too hot becomes even more of a problem when water volume drops as result of the drought now taking place throughout the Northwest. We need to do all we can to keep as much water in the streams as we can.
What Can You Do To Help?
Water conservation helps keep more water in our streams. If we all adopt water-efficient behavior, we can help ensure enough water for humans, fish, wildlife and plants.
1. Turn off the faucet while brushing your teeth.
2. Run washing machines & dishwashers only when they’re full.
3. Take short showers (maybe use a timer).
4. Minimize car washing; if washing the car, use a nozzle with a cut off feature and water car near landscaping to make better use of run-off.
5. Use a broom rather than water to clean your patios, decks, driveways, and sidewalks.
6. Let your lawn go brown in the summer or replace your lawn altogether with drought tolerant native plants; water only sensitive plants. Landscape irrigation is the largest source of domestic water use.
Landowners can do more as well through restoration efforts (grant funding is often available).
7. Plant native trees along the streamside. They will increase both streamside shading and wildlife diversity. The larger the planted area, the more shade and the more water that can be stored in the groundwater and released through the summer. Trees will also help reduce bank erosion, slow water velocity and help, reduce flooding.
8. Keep and encourage beavers in the streams. Beaver ponds help cool water, increase groundwater and promote water-retaining wetlands . The watershed council can work with land-owners to avoid and mitigate tree damage, culvert blocking and other problems that may arise from beaver activity.
“Water is a precious resource” says Engelmeyer. “If we all do a little bit, it can make a difference for our streams and wildlife. Please join our water conservation efforts”.
For more information on restoration projects contact: MidCoast Watersheds Council, 541-265-9195 or the Salmon Drift Creek Watershed Council, (541) 996-3161, Lincoln County Soil and Water Conservation District (541) 265-2631