Advocating for natural resources in West Salem since 1998

Simple Things You Can Do to Help Your Local Watershed

Watershed Tips For All!


We all live in a watershed – an area of land where all surface water and groundwater drains to a common outlet point like a stream, river, wetland, lake or bay. No matter where you live, you are in a watershed. And what you do in your part of the watershed, from how you care for your yard to how you dispose of waste, affects the waterways into which it drains.  Fortunately, there are simple actions each one of us can take to help protect our watersheds and waterways!


A watershed is the area where all waterways drain to a single point. The Glenn and Gibson Creeks Watershed drains to the Willamette River at Rice Rocks, in the area across from Keizer Rapids. It is 14 square miles in area and includes both urban and rural landscapes. Healthy watersheds capture, filter and slowly release all precipitation. This means cool, clean water that nature provides without the need for expensive artificial treatment.

Trees and other vegetation and porous soils provide those functions of a healthy watershed by taking up nutrients and pollutants. This part of the watershed also means habitat - homes for all the native species we depend upon. The more the watershed loses its vegetation and is hardened through soil compaction or paving, the less it is able to function.


A healthy riparian corridor with native grasses, shrubs and trees provides habitat and improves water quality. 90% of all species depends upon the riparian corridor for some part of their life. If you are lucky enough to live by a stream, preserve and protect the riparian corridor. You will be rewarded by the knowledge that you are protecting the home of many aquatic species, insects, birds and mammals. Plant native trees and shrubs and establish a “no mow” zone along the shores of streams and lakes. These buffer strips will help protect water quality, control erosion, filter storm water runoff and provide essential fish and wildlife habitat.

A healthy riparian corridor provides shade that helps to keep water cold and clean. The trees and shrubs provide a better habitat.

Having no plants, shrubs or trees means, no shade, poor water quality and an undesirable habitat.

Turnage Brook volunteers replanting native vegetation.

Scout volunteers working in Chandler Nature Park.


Nutrients from fertilizer run off can lead to excess plant and algae growth in waterways. Minimize your use of lawn and garden fertilizers and maintain a fertilizer-free buffer strip along shorelines. The rapid loss of pollinators is thought to be caused by the use of pesticides and herbicides. Here are some natural pest controls that help, not harm.

Bats can eat thousands of mosquitos and other garden pests in a night. Consider installing a bat box in your yard. Dragonflies also consume garden pests. Shallow dishes of water will invite these useful and beautiful insects.

Toads feast on flying insects and plant-destroying cutworms. Give these hoppers a habitat near your beds by making a shelter from a cracked or chipped terra-cotta pot.

Cinnabar caterpillar feeding on plants.

Cinnabar caterpillar becomes a Cinnabar moth!

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Native plants provide food and cover for pollinators and require less maintenance. They are also very beautiful. They require less water and fertilizer and are more resistant to pests and disease since they are already adapted to local conditions.

Common Camas and Bleeding Heart are native plants

Nootka Wild Rose is a native plant

Common Camas is a native plant

Lupine is a native plant


Runoff containing too much phosphate (“P”) helps feed algae blooms and weed growth in area waterways. Use only phosphate-free automatic dishwasher detergents, deck cleaners and lawn fertilizers.


Pet waste left out in the yard, on sidewalks or on roadsides washes away when it rains and is a major contributor to bacteria problems in local waterways. Dispose of pet waste properly by putting it in a sealed bag in the trash, flushing it down the toilet, or burying it in your yard.


Our storm drains don’t go to a treatment plant – they discharge directly into the closest waterway! Don’t dump paint, motor oil, pesticides, cleaning products or other hazardous household materials into storm drains. Likewise, don’t sweep your lawn clippings or leaves into storm drains.


Don’t mow your lawn shorter than 2 ¾” to 3”. This will allow it to shade weeds and develop deeper, healthier roots. After mowing, leave your grass and leaf clippings on the lawn. They will decompose rapidly and naturally fertilize your lawn.


Impervious surfaces such as pavements and roofs cause rain to run off rapidly, which can cause flooding and stream bank erosion during rainstorms. Minimize runoff by redirecting downspouts into vegetated areas, installing rain barrels or planting a rain garden. Use the stored water for your garden and other landscaping.


Septic system failures can be costly and can contaminate groundwater and nearby surface waters. Have your septic system inspected and pumped every three years.


Do your part to reduce the volume of wastewater from your home. Use low-flow faucets, showers, and toilets and repair any leaks. Take shorter showers, and turn off the tap when brushing your teeth. Run dishwashers and clothes washers only when full, and wash your car and water your lawn only when necessary. You will not only be conserving water but also saving money!

Tips selected from info at Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy

YOU CAN ALSO GET INVOLVED by contacting your elected officials and ask them to adopt environmental legislation that protects water resources and supports land conservation and by joining and/or volunteering at your local watershed organization – like the Glenn and Gibson Creeks Watershed Council!