Washington, DC Daylights Broad Branch Tributary

This is the guest blog from American Rivers Clean Water Supply Intern, Colleen Walters.

Indian Creek, PA | © US Army Corps. of Engineers

Daylighting of Indian Creek in Philadelphia | © US Army Corps. of Engineers

Daylighting is the process of unveiling small streams that are buried in underground piping and restoring them to their original state. Taking streams out of pipes comes with a slew of benefits, including flood reduction, filtration of polluted runoff, and a more livable environment for aquatic organisms.

In many urban areas, burying and piping small streams [PDF] has been a growing trend, but these waters are critical to the health of downstream rivers. Burying streams alters the transport of groundwater and surface water within a watershed and can cause flooding, decreases in water quality, and often increases water treatment costs, not to mention ongoing maintenance costs.

In April, work began to daylight a 1,600 foot section of Broad Branch, a tributary of Rock Creek located in Northwest DC. This daylighting will be the first of its kind for the District, and hopefully not the last.

The restoration will improve water quality, decrease sedimentation and erosion downstream, and create an overall healthier, more natural environment. For more information on the Broad Branch daylighting, check out the District Department of the Environment website or this DC Neighborhood blog.

Wondering if you have buried streams in your backyard? On your street? Or in your community? A study conducted by the University of Maryland found that an alarming 73% of streams in Baltimore are buried. Mapping streams and increasing scientific research is the first step to implementation. These maps can be used to raise awareness, entice community involvement and help with policy changes. For this and more information on daylighting and its environmental importance, check out the American Rivers report Daylighting Streams.