Polluted water

Tanyard Creek, located next to Bolton Dining Commons, is one of the local bodies of water known to have traces of E. coli. (Photo/Garrett Leffelman)

The basic water cycle has been drilled into our heads since elementary school. Part of that cycle is that rain water falls from the sky onto the ground, where it seeps into a place known as a watershed. A watershed is the place where all water drains into a common place. At UGA, there are four watersheds: Tanyard Creek, Lilly Branch, Lake Herrick, and the Steam Plant Stream.  

The water in these watersheds provide: clean drinking water for the Athens community, water used for industrial purposes, a place for learning for students, and a home for the native plants and animals of Georgia.  

However, with steadily increasing development, more of UGA’s land is being covered in concrete or asphalt. Water cannot trickle through concrete, so instead it is channeled into storm drains, ending up in the sewer. Because of this, rain water cannot naturally refill watersheds. The water that does make it back to the watersheds typically carry oils, dirt, trash, and other pollutants due to the sheer speed and volume of run-off. 

There’s one way to restore the water of our watersheds and combat polluting run-off, as well as improve the safety and sanitation of the streets of Athens: permeable surfaces. 

Permeable surfaces are coverings that still allow water to trickle through. From a cost standpoint, they are more expensive than the typical covering on the ground --asphalt. Asphalt runs from fifty cents to $1 per square foot, whereas permeable surfaces run from $2 to $6.50 per square foot. This may sound like quite the cost difference, but this does not include the mandatory storm water system that is required for asphalt surfaces because the water will have nowhere to go when it rains.  

Advocating for permeable surfaces is only one way to restore our watersheds. Watershed UGA is an organization advocating for the integrity of UGA’s watersheds through community outreach and advocacy. 

Storm water treatments is not needed with permeable surfaces. The water just seeps right through it into the watershed below.  

There are more benefits to this than just water returning to our watersheds. Water seeping into the ground means less standing water on the surface of roads and thus less asphalt. The standing water rushing down the plentiful hills of Athens means reduce risk for soil erosion and damages caused by running stormwater. 

We should be taking initiative to improve the quality of our streams and our standard of living here in Athens and on UGA’s campus. Permeable surfaces edify watersheds, traffic, and our wallets in the long run. Let’s fight for permeable concrete for the health of our watersheds.  

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