A new effort is being made to clean up the Gorge by focusing on areas upstream from the actual waterway.
Since the mid-1990s, most of the effort to clean up the Gorge has been focused on removing septic tanks leaching into the water.
Now the Habitat Acquisition Trust is promoting better water and runoff management for the creeks and watersheds that feed the Gorge.
“In the ‘70s and ‘80s it got quite a bad reputation for being a bit of a cesspool waterway,” land care co-ordinator Todd Carnahan said. “It is a swimmable place today as a result of all the community effort.”
A large portion of the Craigflower Watershed – roughly the area between Mount Work and Thetis Lake – drains into the Gorge and Portage Inlet. Carnahan said that with increased development there are increased diversions to waterways through ditching and storm drainage. Development leads to runoff, which then collects sediments and contaminants (such as oil from cars) and runs directly into the waterway instead of being absorbed and filtered by plants and soil.
“They act like a kidney, filtering out the water before it gets into the main stem,” Carnahan said. “We really have to do something now because it’s a bit of a bottleneck as a result of development.”
His group’s Good Neighbours project is working with homeowners to make their properties more water friendly.
One thing homeowners can do is plant more native vegetation rather than expanding their lawn.
In some circumstances, even disconnecting a down spout from the home’s gutters and redirecting water into forest soils is more environmentally friendly than having it go straight into storm drains.
“These are the people that I’m trying to reach, the ones that are upstream of the Gorge, that can actually have an influence on water quality,” Carnahan said. “We’d be very interested in hearing from folks that live in the Craigflower area and would like to learn more about their property.”
A consultation from the Habitat Acquisition Trust’s Good Neighbours program is free, confidential and non-binding. The group will help with landscaping tips that are both beneficial for the homeowner and the environment.
“We can provide a vision for people as a goal for their land management strategy,” Carnahan said. “If we can appeal to people’s desires and wants then we’re also going to have the result of improved water quality for all those other residents of the watershed.”
For more information, visit hat.bc.ca or call Carnahan at 250-995-2428.