More Fall Rain and Snow – Is Good For Streams Summer Flow!
We are getting a lot of snow and rain this fall. It all started early in September this year and now the precipitation continues into the middle of October. This is great news to report if you like to see area trout streams thrive. More flow during next years summer will benefit the trout and other aquatic life, along with those animals that depend on this boost in stream water levels.
Someone told me a few years back that if you need water to bring up the water table and recharge the aquifers, best get it during the fall months, before freeze up. This makes perfect since to me, on a common sense level. During the fall, after plants have gone dormant from the summer growing months, they require less moisture to sustain life until freeze up. More water is allowed to percolate down into the ground in the few months of fall, before the frost seals up the ground soil.
“Water levels in many aquifers follow a natural cyclic pattern of seasonal fluctuation, typically rising during wetter, cooler months and declining during drier, warmer months.”
W.M. Alley, in Encyclopedia of Inland Waters, 2009
With all of the good precipitation this fall, I am expecting good flow in the creeks this next open water season. This will be really good for our trout populations in small area streams. For the last few years, the creeks have been flowing lower than in the previous decade. At least this is what I have observed. Low flows in Bighill Creek and other local streams makes for a very stressful life and survival for the resident trout populations. The amount of available habitat is reduced, forcing trout to compete for what is available. Low flows also result in higher water temperatures, which can increase stress levels in trout.
Bighill Creek Flowing A Lot Cleaner These Days
The Bighill Creek is a short distance from my house, so I find myself crossing it on a regular basis. It is easy to notice how much cleaner the creek is flowing these days, when compared to 10 or so years ago. I recall going down to the bridge near my house, about 15 years ago, to flip a rock or two and see if there was any sign of aquatic invertebrates under the scum covered rocks in the creek. There was nothing at the time. The creek was in a bad state in those days.
Above: This recent photo shows how clean the Bighill Creek is flowing these days. There is an abundance of aquatic life now present in the creek.
The riparian planting program that has been underway for a decade has been a major contributor to improving the water quality in BH Creek. Eroding stream banks have been stabilizing with the new willow growth that has been planted and this reduces the amount of soil, clay and silt loading that enters the stream channel. The reduction of silt has allowed the streambed to slowly clean itself over the years. Other benefits to the BH Creek’s ecosystem will follow!