Story by: Wendy Langhans
Santa Clarita, California and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: one city is twenty years old and the other is 325 years old. But both cities have rivers running through them. Every river is part of a larger watershed, an area of land where water collects and drains into small creeks, which flow into streams, then into rivers and ultimately, into the ocean.
In the Santa Clarita Valley, we live in the Santa Clara watershed, which drains about 1600 square miles. The Santa Clara River flows about 100 miles through the city and west into the Pacific Ocean near Ventura. In contrast, Philadelphia is part of the Delaware River watershed, which drains about 13,589 square miles and flows about 410 miles into the Atlantic Ocean near Trenton, New Jersey.
Earlier this week my husband and I visited Philadelphia. In one of our evening walks, we came across a small pocket park, part of the Mill Creek Trail. In the middle of the 19th century, Mill Creek became so polluted with industrial and urban runoff that they channeled its flow into a pipe connected to the city’s sewer system. Normally this water is treated before it enters the Schuylkill River, which later joins the Delaware River. But when there are heavy rains, the system cannot handle the extra flow and storm water and untreated sewage is discharged into the Schuylkill. The pocket park serves as a demonstration garden, showing how storm water runoff can be captured and infiltrated into the groundwater using a “swale” or dry creek. The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy is creating pocket parks using similar techniques along the LA River as part of our revitalization and restoration efforts.
In contrast to Mill Creek, the Santa Clara River is one of two remaining natural river systems in Southern California. We want to keep it that way. On Saturday, September 15, from 8 - 11 AM, you can volunteer for the City of Santa Clarita’s 13th annual River Rally. Over the years, thousands of volunteers have collected over 245,000 pounds of trash from the Santa Clara River and its tributaries. For more details go to
Not bad for a brash, upstart of a 20-year-old city, eh?
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