What Exactly Is Stream Daylighting?

Download Daylighting Streams | © American Rivers

Download Daylighting Streams | © American Rivers

Small streams, which scientists refer to as headwater streams, provide a wide array of benefits to communities, such as nutrient and pollution removal, groundwater recharge, and flood mitigation. Headwater streams are where rivers are born – from small seeps, springs, and brooks – and they gain water and size as they move through the environment. In fact, these small streams provide homes to a variety of animals, including salamanders and fish, and also provide food resources for terrestrial wildlife.

With population growth and the growth of cities, many of these small streams – which provide numerous clean water and recreational benefits – are buried. During much of our industrialization period, we did not realize the many benefits small streams afforded us, so we often enclosed them, using as sewer pipes or simply burying over completely.

The legacy of these bad decisions now remains in our cities. Once upon a time, when it rained, small streams and surrounding vegetation would absorb precipitation. Now with stream burial and impervious surfaces, the result is localized flooding which can damage businesses, wreak havoc on traffic, and flood homes.

Fortunately, we are now realizing the importance of small streams and are looking for ways to revitalize them. Stream daylighting is a relatively new approach that exposes some or all of a previously buried river, stream, or stormwater drainage. Daylighting exists in several forms including:

  • Natural restoration – restoring a stream to natural conditions;
  • Architectural restoration – restoring a stream to open air, flowing water but within a constructed channel; or
  • Cultural restoration – celebration of a buried stream through markers or public art used to inform the public of the historic stream path, although the stream remains buried.

The newly released report by American Rivers, therefore, highlights the benefits stream daylighting provides through both water quality and community improvements. A series of blogs supporting the report release will highlight ways in which daylighting can be beneficial to communities.

One Response to “What Exactly Is Stream Daylighting?”


I am in Washington state and I did not know that daylighting was done enought to even have a name of it’s own. I would like to restore Fauntleroy creek a small year round stream in West Seattle that is partly underground and partly clogged by ivy. It should be idealy suited for the restoration since it still has much of it’s tributary watershed intact and protected in green gelts and still flows year round. Also it has many old growth trees shelterin much of it’s course, many of them over one hundred years. The trees too are in danger of ivy chocking and if they get ill will be cut down and that in itself would be a shame too. Fauntleroy creek use to host several types of salmon and steelhead as well as none sea going fish such as a posible home for bull run trout. Lastly the project could in some portions of the creek support walkways and public awarness and educational signs and displays. Please contact me. dts.