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Our Watershed


When one attempts to focus in on and communicate about separate forces and components which are, naturally, interwoven in a complex system, it is difficult. “Water” is one of those topics.  Water is, intimately, connected with soil, with topography, with community, and more. Let’s give it a go.

We are in the Octoraro Creek Watershed which drains into the Susquehanna and, eventually, into the Chesapeake Bay. Here is a link to a very good presentation about our watershed. The first presenter is Dr. John Shuman, the president of the Octoraro Watershed Association. He gives a precise and clear description of our watershed. I learned that the quality of our local water is in jeopardy. There are 13 impaired streams and 35 impaired tributaries above the Octoraro Reservoir. 1/3 of the wells in Chester County are above the level of concern for nitrate values. High nitrate values can lead to “blue baby syndrome” and health problems in farm animals  Manure nitrogen from farming has a large impact. 75% of the 208 square mile watershed is agricultural and includes many dairy farms. 70% of the farming is done on Amish farms and, so, efforts are going into working with Amish liaisons and farmers to develop conservation plans and meet state environmental regulations.

I can look at the landscape and topo maps to identify the creeks and valleys which lead to the East Branch of the Octoraro Creek. The lower fields of StellaLou form a a very gentle south-facing valley. Water flows down that valley to Rattlesnake Run which flows to the Muddy Run which, then, flows into the Octoraro. Artie directed his stormwater to a pond he made just below the keypoint of our little valley. The woodlot is directly south of the pond and down the gentle slope. We will want to test the water from this pond but I have, recently, seen a goldfish swimming and glowing beneath a layer of ice. I have seen heron. I have seen duck. Fox, raccoon, dogs, and deer use this water. There are animal highways that go to the water’s edge. It appears to be a healthy habitat. The woodlot and pond also serve to prevent stormwater from rushing soil and nutrients off of the land and, directly, into the creeks.


Rattlesnake Run is just beyond StellaLou’s southern border.




Water Test

We tested the water which comes from a deep 300′ encased well and this was the report. Not encouraging. Fortunately, the test for e-coli fecal coliform was negative.


With regard to the coliform, we have shocked the house system, retested, and have the happy result of a negative test for coliform. The recommendation is to test, again, in one month. We will, also, be installing an acid treatment system as the pH is too low and pipes will corrode. After researching our watershed, the nitrate levels were of particular interest. They are within the potability standards but they are creeping up there. This is a cause for concern. We’ll have to keep an eye on those numbers. This critical test number connects us to the community around us. We are not isolated. We as a community, must care for our watershed. In the definition of  “watershed” provided here; there is a quote from John Wesley Powell, scientist geographer. I find that it, strongly, reflects what I am realizing in this study of “water” at StellaLou.  “…that area of land, a bounded hydrologic system, within which all living things are inextricably linked by their common water course and where, as humans settled, simple logic demanded that they become part of a community.”

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