Sustainability… What Is It?

By: Susie Steffensen

There are a number of definitions for sustainability and ways to achieve it. For example, one definition is, “Meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.” Another, as it applies to nature is, “The quality of not being harmful to the environment or depleting natural resources, and thereby supporting long-term ecological balance.” For both of these definitions, steps taken now will determine the quality of life for future generations.

There are factors that play into the world’s ability to be sustainable, such as population growth…. energy usage….waste production… agricultural practices and deforestation…plastic use. Addressing these factors and implementing practices that reduce their effects on the environment is the goal, and everyone can do a little something to achieve this goal.

Recycling and reducing the use of single use plastic addresses the need to reduce waste. Turning down the thermostat, turning off lights, and reducing the hot water heater to 120° are ways to reduce energy consumption. Implementing best management practices such as precision agriculture, cover crops, and grassed waterways will improve water quality and help prevent erosion.

So if you are already taking action to help sustainability, thank you! Picking up litter, stopping erosion on your property, allowing weeds to grow in your yard… these things are so beneficial and don’t cost a thing. It might mean rearranging your priorities, but anything that benefits our natural world will benefit you in the long run.

For more information follow us on Facebook, as we will be posting additional ideas on ways to practice sustainable living.

SWCD Water Quality Efforts Recognized

Full detention structure in field waterway

Clermont SWCD, along with the Clermont Office of Environmental Quality and the US EPA Office of Research and Development were awarded the top government storm water project of the year at the 2019 Ohio Storm Water Conference in Sharonville, OH. Our project was funded by a USDA Conservation Innovation Grant and was installed in 2015. This project was funded to research innovative solutions by developing new strategies to support conservation efforts. The project involved the installation of an urban storm water detention basin into an agricultural setting. This project is currently being researched to determine effectiveness of agricultural nutrient removal.

Submerged treatment bed for nutrient removal

The need to address agricultural runoff is important because of the water quality degradation and algal blooms that are occurring around the world. Nutrients leaving agricultural fields are a contributing factor to water quality problems. The soils that we have in our county are very unique to Ohio and an “outside the box” approach was needed because current management practices do not always apply in our area.

The partnership to make this project successful includes many county, state and federal agencies, landowners, and the private industry. This project speaks to the great success of everyone working together for a viable solution.

Erosion Concerns? Try a Riparian Buffer

If you own property that borders a stream and have concerns with the banks eroding and/or water quality, there are some relatively simple measures that you can take to alleviate the problems.  Sometimes the impact is too great, and steps are needed to provide armoring or protection, but if the erosion is not too severe, riparian buffers may be the answer to your worries.

Property owners that mow or weed right to the stream are setting themselves up for erosion problems.  Turf grass has very shallow roots which do a poor job of holding soil in place.  As a result, there is very little under the ground holding the soil in place, and it can be more easily washed away during high stream flows.  When natural vegetation is allowed to grow along a stream’s banks, the benefits are amazing.  When trees, shrubs and native grasses become established along a stream, it is referred to as a riparian buffer.  These plants have deep root systems which do a very good job of holding soil in place.

Buffers also provide many other benefits.  They shade and cool to the stream, which helps promote a healthy and diverse fish community.  Buffers are very effective at filtering pollutants such as lawn fertilizers, animal waste, and pesticides.  They also provide wildlife corridors and habitat.

Clermont SWCD suggests a buffer width of 25 feet for small streams, and increasing the width as the drainage area and stream gets bigger.  However, any buffer width is better than none at all.  The greater the width, the more positive impacts there will be for the stream.  Some plant species that will work well in a stream buffer zone include sycamore (Platanus occidentalis), willows (Salix sp.), red osier dogwood (Cornus sericea), spicebush (Lindera benzoin), and grasses such as meadow sage (Salvia pratensis) and different varieties of rushes (Juncus sp.)

If you have any questions or would like any guidance in establishing your own riparian buffer, contact us at 513-732-7075, or by email at jhahn@clermontcountyohio.gov.

Duke Energy, Clermont SWCD Partner on a Beautiful Solution to Storm Water Pollution

Recently, Duke Energy and the Clermont Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) partnered with a homeowners’ association in a Union Township subdivision to combat runoff problems and beautify the neighborhood at the same time.

Under a $25,000 grant from the Duke Energy Foundation, Clermont SWCD worked with the Shayler Woods Homeowners Association (HOA) to install a 1000 square foot rain garden in a section of the subdivision where storm water did not receive any treatment before it reached a small creek. The garden will catch storm flows from two small drainage areas and allow it to soak into the ground over a day or two rather than running off into the creek. Along with reducing flow, the garden will help filter pollutants, including nutrients found in lawn fertilizers what can contribute to algae blooms.

Gene Benninger, the president of the Shayler Woods HOA, said “We are pleased that our community was chosen for this project. It has greatly enhanced the appearance of the landscape, and we look forward to Spring when everything will be blooming.”

Clermont SWCD offers guidance to any landowner in Clermont County, including homeowners associations, interested in creating their own rain garden.  Requests for assistance can be made by calling (513) 732-7075. or sending an email to ssteffensen@clermontcountyohio.gov.