Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Turning Water Into Trees: Water Bill Program Funds Durham Beautification

Redbuds Cercis canadensis  blooming in downtown Durham.
By Alex Johnson City of Durham
The Durham Herald

As of this week there is an easy way for you to support planting more trees in Durham, and you should really consider doing it. The “Water into Trees”  program allows water customers to contribute a  little or a lot via their water bill to the fund that allows the city’s Urban Forestry crews to replace some of the trees that they take down, and even make up for  the loss of trees elsewhere. 
The amount you donate is up to you.  You can round-up your bill to the nearest dollar, allowing you to slowly contribute as time goes by, or you can increase you bill each month by a set amount.  You can also make a one-time donation with the option to contribute in honor of someone or to commemorate an event.
So what’s the connection between water and trees?  It’s been known for a long time that trees located in areas where water quality is low on account of urban conditions can help bring pollution levels down.  They do this by putting out a canopy over paved or compacted surfaces, intercepting and slowing the movement of water, and taking up a lot of the excess water and pollution (in the form of nutrients) through their roots.  Those roots also hold together soil and keep erosion in check. 
Durham has enjoyed steady growth, despite the recent recession, and as we develop and pave over areas that once were forest, our ability to manage the flow of water moving through our storm sewers becomes increasingly challenging.  One way to manage pollutants from impervious surfaces is to  plant more trees, and we will happily do it for you, on city right-of-way, and take care of them into the future.
However, we can’t do it without help.  The amount of money needed to purchase a tree to be planted in an urban setting varies according to size, species and the overall trend in nursery costs.  Each year the allotted funding for tree planting in Durham is subject to the budgetary process, which in recent years has called for cuts and creative resource management. 
Having a budget that is supported by voluntary contributions helps to fill the gaps left by cuts and material price increases. It also clearly illustrates that the residents of this proud community care about their trees. 
 If you are interested in opting into the program, or adopting a tree, visit the Urban Forestry website at http://durhamnc.gov/ich/op/gs/Pages/Urban-Forestry.aspx , or shoot me an email at Alexander.Johnson@durhamnc.gov .
Alex Johnson is urban forestry manager for the City of Durham.

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