Shorelines and streamsides provide some of the most valuable wildlife habitat of all terrestrial ecosystems. They are also popular areas for people to live, work and play. Our activities can still impact beaches or streams, even if we do not live close to these areas. Within a watershed, land and water are linked; all the rainwater that is not taken up by plants eventually flows into a water body such as a stream, lake or wetland and eventually reaches the ocean. This journey may be relatively short, particularly on an island such as Vancouver Island. Along the way, this water may contact any number of chemicals on road surfaces, industrial lots, agricultural fields, lawns and gardens, and wash them into natural water bodies. Whether walking along a shoreline or just going about a day in town, you can take some steps to limit damage to shorelines and streamsides.
How can I help protect shorelines & streams?
- Get involved: join community stewardship group that is active near your home or your favorite beach. This may give you the opportunity to learn about local wildlife, help clean up a beach, contribute to land use decisions, and make new friends.
- Stay on the trail: Stick to designated or well-worn paths when walking along shorelines and streams, to avoid trampling sensitive vegetation.
- Reduce pollution: Learn about the types of pollution that are most common around the urban harbours and watersheds of the CRD, and learn how you can help reduce pollution.
- Don’t dump: Help to reduce chemical contamination of streams and shorelines by disposing of hazardous household wastes (motor oil, paint, solvents, pesticides, batteries, etc.) at an appropriate facility; see the CRD Hazardous Waste Guide. Never put toxic substances into storm drains.
- Park the car: Consider using your car less frequently, switching to a more fuel efficient model and keeping your vehicle well-tuned. Engine fluids that leak onto roads are washed into freshwater and marine areas and affect the health of plants and animals that live there. Air pollution is also a concern for the environment and for human health.
- Take it to a car wash, or wash your car over your lawn or a gravel driveway. This way, the soap is filtered through soil before it flows into storm drains, and subsequently into the ocean. Look for phosphate-free soap, as phosphates can lead to harmful algae blooms.
- Green your cleaning: Use non-toxic alternatives to household cleaners, such as those found in the Clean Green Cookbook and the Georgia Strait Alliance Toxic Smart/Clean Alternatives
- Go pesticide-free: Learn about natural gardening practices and landscaping techniques that allow you to eliminate or reduce the use of chemicals.
- Maintain your septic system: Make sure your septic system is properly monitored and maintained. Sewage contamination of water bodies can lead to problems such as algae blooms that deprive the water of oxygen. See the CRD Septic Savvy Kit.
- Reduce erosion: Learn how erosion can damage ecosystems and human property. Natural vegetation along streamsides and shorelines is very important for preventing erosion.
- Make a buffer: Consider planting or preserving a natural vegetation buffer along your waterfront property, and try not to trample vegetation while you are enjoying natural areas.
- Reduce impervious areas: Learn how impervious surfaces (i.e. roads, parking lots, building roofs) affect water quality and stream flows. You may be able to help reduce impervious surfaces around your home and in your neighbourhood.
Considering buying or modifying shoreline or streamside property?
These development tips may help you avoid costly erosion problems and damage to plants and wildlife.
- By carefully siting structures such as walkways, wharves and docks, you can help to limit the damage to marine plants and animals. The Stewardship Centre
- Whenever possible, use natural alternatives to seawalls to protect your waterfront property from erosion. Seawalls substantially reduce intertidal habitat and can even lead to more erosion problems.
- If you operate a farm or own livestock, learn how sustainable agricultural practices can benefit you and help protect shorelines.
- Learn how you can help reduce pollution from boating.
- Report spills of toxic (or potentially toxic) substances on land or in water to Emergency Management BC.