[env-trinity] Trinity Journal: Conservation urged as creek draws, dry year put stress on fish

Tom Stokely tstokely at att.net
Wed Jun 26 08:23:08 PDT 2013

Conservation urged as creek draws, dry year put stress on fish
Posted: Wednesday, June 26, 2013 6:15 am
Amy Gittelsohn The Trinity Journal | 0 comments
More than 25 years ago, Mark Lancaster got his first lesson about the devastating impact humans can have on fish as he cooled off in the creek by his rental home on Oregon Street.
"I was literally standing in West Weaver Creek at about 2 in the afternoon on a hot August day when I watched the creek completely dry up in about 20 minutes," Lancaster said.
The creek where he stood went from about 8 feet wide and a half-foot deep to nothing. Then, about 20 minutes later, the creek was running again as if nothing had happened. No sign that thousands of fish had died and then had been swept away.
He investigated the causes and found that, simultaneously, neighbors had turned on pumps to water their lawns, the water district was diverting water from the creek and someone else was drafting water from an upstream pool for a water truck.
Lancaster is now program director for the Five Counties Salmonid Conservation Program (5C).
In this dry year, he wants residents who get their water from creeks – whether through a utility or their own pumps – to be aware of the potential consequences to fish.
"A fish only gets 30 seconds out of the water and it's dead," he said.
The couple days of rain early this week does not change the outlook significantly, he said.
"It would be unfortunate if it made people relax and think we are not in the middle of a critical drought," Lancaster said. "The value of this will be gone in less than a week."
From a water conservation standpoint, marijuana growing has been a concern of many regulating agencies. However, Lancaster makes his appeal to everyone, noting that a landowner who plants a lawn right up to the creek, fertilizes and waters the lawn can be the bigger problem.
"We already are seeing the creeks in Trinity County can't afford more diversion," Lancaster said, noting that Weaver Creek and Little Browns Creek are of particular concern.
The 5C Program is not a regulatory agency and seeks non-regulatory solutions to issues.
"If we continue to impact all the fish in the creeks the environmental laws will have to be cranked up higher and higher," Lancaster said.
"Everybody has a stake in what we need to do," Lancaster said. "We have a lot of suggestions."
"The farmers in the Central Valley are probably more aware of our rainfall in Trinity versus residents here," he said, noting that the farmers need the information to plan their crops.
"Know your water bank account and reduce lawn, crop and other plantings in anticipation of reduced water availability," Lancaster said.
The 5C Program is working on a water education trailer with displays and demonstrations to take to the Farmers Markets and other community events.
One of the main suggestions will be an alternative to pumping water directly from a creek. Instead, a gravity pipe system can be set up to slowly trickle-fill a water tank from the creek. That way, landowners suddenly draw down their tank and not the creek when they water, even if they do so simultaneously.
Also, Lancaster said, don't water in the middle of the day when much is lost to evaporation.
Additional solutions include rooftop rainwater collection systems, replacing lawns with drought resistant plants and low-flow toilets and shower heads.
Lancaster noted that almost 14 percent of water consumed in households is lost to leaks. A leaky toilet is a common source and can result in loss of hundreds of gallons of water a day. For example, if the flapper is worn or not sealing properly, water will leak into the toilet bowl. You can check for this by dropping food coloring or dye tablets in the toilet tank and waiting 15 to 20 minutes, without flushing, to see if color appears in the toilet bowl.
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