Keeping our Streams Clean and Healthy

Every living organism needs healthy water: plants, animals – people, too! Millbrook’s streams give farmers water for fields and animals, drinking water for everyone, and life to fish and wildlife. Trout need streams that run cold and clean. Local waters connect us as a community. We share their use and the responsibility to keep them flowing clean. Everything we do upstream impacts neighbours downstream. This article highlights actions to take as a community and as individuals, to maintain Millbrook stream quality.

With spring comes snowmelt and rainwater runoff. Yards turn green, but runoff also greens up – and warms up – local streams. Under natural conditions, spring rains and snowmelt sink into the ground, cooling and filtering water before it enters a stream. In town, runoff can’t infiltrate paved surfaces. Instead, water follows driveways, streets and sidewalks, picking up everything: oil and road salt, pet waste, and other pollutants. Hard surfaces also increase runoff temperature. Overall quality of water suffers, as do fish and the tiny food sources they rely on.

As Millbrook grows, we must continue to preserve permeable surfaces including gravel driveways and natural, grassy, or mulched areas. Trees, streamside bushes and wild growth, and especially wetlands, slow down and filter runoff before releasing it to local streams. Any new development must plan to direct runoff into holding ponds and preserve the above-mentioned features, where possible.

We all play important roles in maintaining local stream water quality. Landowners can preserve and/or plant vegetation within the riparian zone (the area within 30 m of the stream bank). This is the most important action that a landowner can undertake.  Allowing trees, tall grasses and wild streamside growth to flourish, provides a huge benefit by reducing, cooling and filtering runoff. A mowed lawn is much less effective and creates a virtual desert for creatures that are beneficial for the stream. Mowed lawn also lets sunlight heat the water. Trees and bushes will anchor soil around the stream, preventing erosion. Besides oxygen producing powers, trees and wetlands also recharge groundwater that fills the wells of so many members of our community.

Does your family reuse rainwater by directing downspouts to gardens, or by using rain barrels? These actions are perfect for garden plants, and encourage water infiltration into the soil instead of into storm drains. Slow release of surface water reduces direct flow into local streams, and reduces spring flooding or after storms. Other beneficial actions include collecting pet waste, and keeping chemicals and automotive fluids away from storm drains.

In 2020, Trout Unlimited Millbrook will bring to the community the Yellow Fish Road ProgramTM. Participants will learn about the impact of pollution and take steps to protect their local water. The program provides curriculum for kindergarten through grade 9. Otonabee Conservation has been the source for this curriculum on behalf of Trout Unlimited within our community. For more information about Trout Unlimited projects, please check out the Trout Unlimited website ( or contact

By Cori Carveth, Trout Unlimited, Millbrook

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