Living Arroyos

What is a watershed?

A watershed is an area of land whose water drains to a common water body, such as a lake, stream, or bay. Unless you’re on a boat at sea as you’re reading this, you’re in a watershed. For a more detailed explanation of how watersheds work, click here.

What watershed is Living Arroyos in?

The Living Arroyos program area falls entirely within the Alameda Creek watershed, one of the Bay Area’s largest. The Alameda Creek Alliance has assembled a wealth of information on our watershed here.

Why do you say you’re “restoring” our arroyos? Are you trying to put things back to the way they were before people got here?

concrete channel

Channelized stream in Dublin, CA

“Restoration” is a term we – and many others — use to talk about enhancing the natural habitat value of a place. It’s not very precise and often gives rise to the idea that we’re trying to turn the clock back to a time before people. That’s not the case, but so far no one has come up with a better word. To clarify what we mean, here are some examples: In the Tri-Valley area there are many streams that people have modified so much that they bear little resemblance to what they were in the past. In some places, the water has been diverted or riparian forests have been lost. In some of those places we’ll try to re-establish forests, though they might have a different mix of plant species than what was there before. On the other hand there are some places, like the lower reaches of the Arroyo Mocho, that weren’t streams at all except when it was raining – but because we need these streams to carry water to recharge our aquifers, they’re wet nearly year-round nowadays. On sites like our Stanley Reach project area, we’ll be creating new forests that were never there in the past, because those forests will bring with them a host of environmental benefits – and be nice places for people, too.

Is being around nature good for people?

Recent scholarship suggests that people who have regular contact with nature are healthier, happier, and smarter than people who do not. Children who play in natural settings learn to be more creative and resilient. The good news is that you don’t have to go backpacking in the Sierras to benefit from contact with nature; spending time in even small natural areas in cities can lower your blood pressure, elevate your mood, and reduce stress. More information can be found here.

What about climate change?

Though there is a great deal of uncertainty around the ways in which our climate is changing, it’s likely that restoring streams and riparian areas is one of the best ways we can help minimize the impact of climate change on living creatures. Streams and streamside habitats are adapted to change and disturbance, so are likely to be more resilient to climate change impacts. They also provide natural migration corridors to enable creatures to move around the landscape. Restoring forest cover to streams helps keep them cooler, which will become increasingly important as global temperatures rise. A good scholarly treatment of this subject can be found here.

Is there another question you’d like to see answered here? If so, email us!