Jewel of the Piedmont

Since approximately 2002, the Goose Creek Association has established a stream monitoring program that is providing evidence that upper Goose Creek and some of its tributaries indeed fit the description, “Jewel of the Piedmont.” However, some tributaries, and much of the lower Goose Creek, as it runs through Loudoun County are challenging this assumption. What makes the difference? The answer is simple: land use differences.

The purpose of the stream monitoring, both macroinvertebrate (insects in the stream) and the e-coli testing (fecal coliform from feces), is to assess the stream’s health. This program also hopes to establish a base line of information so that any future contamination can be quickly identified and have scientific evidence to show any degradation. Since both Fairfax and parts of Leesburg obtain their drinking water from this creek, it becomes a very precious resource for more than its scenic beauty and ability to provide water for many uses over its entire 350 square mile watershed.

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During our most recent monitoring, the low water levels were an additional concern. Our continuing drought has reduced some of the stream’s tributaries to a mere trickle. The Goose Creek Association even had to cancel its annual June canoe trip due to water levels. There is not much that we can do about water levels, but we surely can focus on water conservation.

This can start with basics at both ends of the conservation spectrum. First be aware of impervious surfaces on your property and in your community. Every time a parking lot or street is paved, or another roof erected on a house, building, barn or shed the ground underneath is no long a sponge for returning water to the aquifer. The water running off these impervious surfaces merely runs off into ditches, gains speed as it rampages into tributaries, and with excessive force and volume, erodes banks and destroys the fragile riparian buffers along the stream edge all the way to the Potomac.

At the other end of the water use spectrum is consumption. Water could well be the replacement for oil as the most precious commodity of the 21st century. Now is the time to teach serious conservation of water use. From the basics of teaching our children and grandchildren to turn off the water while brushing their teeth, to planting native grasses and shrubs that do not require watering, or better yet letting most of your property just grow up with lawn only around the immediate house area. Woodlands absorb the water and return it to the aquifer much more efficiently than anything else. Open space, best management practices on our farm land, and proportionate areas of woodland make for a healthy watershed. Development, removal of trees, paving, etc. causes watershed dysfunction

Of course, we all realize that development and paving are necessary, but modern science is showing ways to collect water and control run off. Some of this is occurring in more progressive projects, but the everyday use of water by all of us is still in the dark ages. Most people think of water as a never ending, replenishable resource. After all, “Matter can neither be created nor destroyed.” Right? Wrong! Clean water can become dirty water, fouled by human use or human wastefulness as it cascades as muddy silted liquid into the Chesapeake Bay. It’s on our watch. Teach and practice water conservation now, so that we can continue to enjoy all our “outdoor” activities, like fishing and swimming in clean streams, riding along pristine waterways that have no odor nor broken down, eroding banks, hiking over land that is still natural. It all comes back to good stewardship of our most precious resource; water.

Board Member Marcia Woolman is a freelance writer from The Plains, VA. She serves on the Boards of three conservation organizations. If you would like more information on watershed issues, please contact us at 540.687.3073 or


Posted on February 19th, 2013 in Stream Monitoring

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