by Tom Hareland, Angela Lebron-Cola, and Mary Beth Radeck
It seems everyone knows that water flows downhill. But do most people know that every time it rains in urbanized cities like Schaumburg, 55% of the total precipitation runs off and finds its way quickly to the Salt Creek and its Watershed? Conversely, in a natural environment, only 10% of precipitation runs off (Environmental Protection Agency [EPA], 2003). Uninterrupted, water flows over the land in a watershed, nourishing plants and animals in forests, prairies, wetlands and floodplains. What doesn’t run off to a stream either evaporates and transpires to the air to create more rain or infiltrates underground, restoring water tables.
The earth itself stores vast quantities of groundwater and maintains lake and river levels. The natural water cycle is a highly efficient, continuous loop and by its very definition, entirely sustainable. Unfortunately, human development has disrupted the natural cycle by converting open lands and forest into impermeable surfaces that contribute to flooding communities within the watershed, in turn endangering people, property and natural resources.
Next page: What Is the Salt Creek Watershed?
Banner image credit: Salt Creek, as seen from the northern edge of Busse Woods, Cook County, IL (M. Bryson). This portion of the Creek receives stormwater run-off from Schaumburg, Rolling Meadows, and other adjacent suburbs in the NW region of Chicagoland. A dam at the southern end of the forest preserve creates Busse Reservoir, a lake that stores water to mitigate downstream flooding and provide recreation for Cook County residents.