Get Involved 2
You Can Make a Difference
Control and report spills
Chemical spills and agricultural runoff naturally move downhill toward floodplains, where waterways and wetlands are located. It is important to keep all sewage, oils, paints, and other chemicals from reaching our wetlands, rivers, estuaries, and oceans. Spills can be prevented by properly disposing of items (e.g., motor oil can be taken to a local auto parts store for free, cooking oil can be recycled at many local recycling centers, hazardous waste can be removed properly by working with the state or certified private companies). If a small spill occurs, dry materials (e.g., kitty litter, sand) can be placed on spilled oil, paint, or chemicals to soak them up and then be swept up and thrown away. Larger spills should be reported to local stormwater management divisions or to the North Carolina Division of Water Resources Pretreatment, Emergency Response & Collection Systems Branch. Remember, anything but water going down a storm drain is pollution. North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality’s Environmental Assistance and Customer Service line phone number: 877-623-6748
Plant a tree
Trees provide many benefits to us and the environment, like giving us oxygen, shade, beauty, habitat, food…. Trees in wetlands help slow down flowing water, they help control water levels by taking up water and returning it to the atmosphere (i.e., transpiration), they keep soil from washing away, and they provide shade and shelter for animals. Make sure it is the right kind of tree for the environment you are choosing, because some trees need lots of water like wetlands provide, but other trees can drown in wet areas. Planting native trees is always a good idea.
Pick up trash
Litter affects us all! Whether it’s your trash or not—if you see something, do something! Begin by recycling whenever possible, securing trash as it’s transported, and disposing of trash properly. Also, pick up any trash you see on the ground to prevent it from washing into our wetlands, streams, rivers, or ocean after the next wind or rain. It is important to keep trash out of storm drains because most of these drains carry rainwater, and everything in it, directly to a nearby wetland or stream. North Carolina generates 33,000 tons of trash every day – let’s keep that out of our water!
Remove invasive species
Native plants are best – providing important food, shelter, nutrients, etc. to their environment. You can work on your own or with a local group to remove invasive plants, allowing plants that belong (native) to grow well in their typical habitat. Invasive species were introduced to an area from somewhere else, and now are taking up space that other native plants and animals need. North Carolina has several invasive species that need to be removed; the ones living in water include Alligatorweed (Alternanthera philoxeroides), Creeping water primrose (Ludwigia grandiflora), Eurasian watermilfoil (Myriophyllum spicatum), Hydrilla (Hydrilla verticillata), Parrotfeather (Myriophyllum aquaticum), and others (Aquatic Weeds found in North Carolina). Other invasive plants often seen in wetlands include Chinese and Japanese privet (Ligustrum sp.), Japanese stilt-grass (Microstegium vimineum), Common reed (Phragmites australis), and others (Invasive Exotic Species List).
Use water wisely
The less water we all use, the easier it is for water levels to stay normal in wetlands, rivers, lakes and underground water sources, and the easier it is for wetlands to continue to provide us great benefits. The average American uses 80 to 100 gallons of water per day. With 10 million people living in North Carolina, that equals 800,000,000 to 1 billion gallons of water used by people every day in North Carolina! Changing daily routines can save a lot of water by lowering daily water usage.
Inside the house:
- turn tap water off while brushing teeth (leaving it running = 13 gallons)
- take shorter showers, showers instead of baths, or don’t fill the whole bathtub (full bath = 70 gallons, 10-minute shower = 25 gallons)
- upgrade your showerhead (most showerheads = 2.5 gallons a minute, high-efficiency = 1.5 gallons per minute)
- upgrade your washing machine (regular = 40 gallons, high-efficiency = 28 gallons)
- change your toilets (older model = 5 gallons per flush, watersense = 1.28 gallons per flush)
- check for and fix water leaks (leaky toilet = up to 200 gallons per day)
Outside the house, harvesting rainwater and reusing water for watering lawns and gardens can help reduce water use, especially during dry periods. Other water conservation ideas can be found at SaveWaterNC.
Donating time and money are both wonderful ways to get involved with wetlands. Giving of your time can include collecting trash from a wetland, volunteering with an environmental organization (see list of North Carolina organizations below), volunteering to share information about wetlands at local community events, taking a group of friends to a nearby wetland, or organizing a fundraiser to benefit wetlands. The money raised from fundraisers, or personal donations, can be used to fund publications and public events, purchase land for conservation, support activities of environmental organizations, and support wetland research projects.
Spread the news
Talking about wetlands and telling others how important wetlands are can make more people aware of wetlands and be willing to help. Information on what wetlands are, where they are located, why they are important, how to help and protect them, and information about wetland events are all things that can be shared with other people, like friends, neighbors, classmates, teammates, parents, teachers, employers, and government officials. It is important to share the news – you can make an impact, even if it is just with one person at a time.
You can also write to your elected officials, no matter your age! Find contact information for your representatives here.
Set up a conservation easement
Landowners can use conservation easements to permanently protect their wetlands from development, and provide benefits that are important to everyone long into the future. A conservation easement exists when a private landowner continues to own their land, but they join in a legally binding agreement with a conservation group or government agency to protect the land from future development or other specified uses. More details can be found in Conservation Easements: Conserving Land, Water, and a Way of Life. There are 23 land trusts across North Carolina that can help you set up a conservation easement. Visit https://www.ctnc.org/ to learn more.
Use proper techniques during construction
Extra sediment is the number one pollutant in North Carolina’s water. Limiting the amount of bare ground on a construction site helps prevent soil from washing away during rains. Keeping erosion control fences maintained during work will keep soil out of natural areas and out of streams and wetlands. It is also important to keep water flowing naturally across the project area to prevent erosion and to prevent dams from forming, which can change the amount of water and the types of plants and animals that can live there. During site design and later construction, natural connections between wetlands should be maintained, to avoid creating artificial dams that restrict/hinder/impede water flow and cause future erosion problems or artificial changes in community types.
Protect against erosion and extra sediments
Preventing erosion and sediments in water can be as easy as regularly inspecting a property during or after big storms, preventing trash and other pollutants from entering storm drains, sweeping sidewalks and driveways instead of spraying with water, washing cars in the grass, planting vegetation, and setting up sediment traps. The EPA states that sediment is the most common pollutant in our rivers, streams, and lakes. It is important to decrease the amount of sediments in water because sediments fill storm drains, make it difficult for aquatic animals to find food, limit the growth of plants, etc. Technical details for large scale projects can be found in the North Carolina Erosion and Sediment Control Planning and Design Manual. Excessive erosion can be reported to NC Division of Energy, Mineral and Land Resources by calling 1-866-STOPMUD
Organizations Involved with North Carolina’s Wetlands
Many groups are working to help wetlands in North Carolina. Some groups work on a local scale, some work statewide, while others work on national or international scales. Below are a few options, but there are many more to discover and become a part of.