It’s gonna take a village

Jed GrubbsBlog Archives

Nashville riverfront at night

Our local waterways are a treasure, teeming with a diversity of life rarely found on Earth. But it's going to take us all if we want to keep it that way.

We live within one of the most biodiverse freshwater regions on earth. When our ecosystems are diverse and healthy, they take good care of us. They protect us from floods, control erosion, and filter impurities from our water. They provide us with food and medicine, as well as inspiration and wonder.

The Cumberland River Basin, which includes all of Nashville, is a vast region covering 18,000 square miles of TN and Kentucky. The area includes over 20,000 miles of streams and rivers, all drained by the mighty Cumberland River, thousands of plant and animal species and about 3 million people. Of the many thousands of plant and animal species in our basin, including us, each and every one depends on clean water to survive.

Unfortunately, about half of assessed waterways in our basin are unhealthy, according to reports submitted to the EPA by the state scientists in Tennessee and Kentucky. In all cases, unhealthy streams are a threat to aquatic ecosystems. In many cases, they are also public health concerns.

All of those little things add up

As a society, some of the little habits we do (or don’t do) every day, combined with our neighbors doing the same, have a big impact on our waters. Some of these might include not picking up after our pets, flushing medications down the toilet, or mowing the grass next to the stream in our backyard, to name a few.

The exciting news is that we are the solution. We have to be. I might decide I want to save my neighborhood creek, but without the help of my neighbors and community, I might struggle to see results. That’s the lesson of a watershed, right? They require us to think and act as a community, because we are all connected to the same resources.

It begins with knowledge

When we think with a watershed mentality, we can think strategically. When we know what a stream is impaired with, we can work with the people in that watershed to address the problem(s). But it starts with education; people have to feel and know their connection to their watershed in order to protect it.

For this reason, much of the programing at the Cumberland River Compact strives to connect and empower people in their watershed. What you might not know is that there are some really easy ways to dive into being a water steward (without being a watershed expert).

Get to know your creek with iCreek

The first and easiest thing you can do, at home and in your pj’s, is to open your internet browser and navigate to The handy little tool known as iCreek will tell you what you need to know about your local creek, watershed, or pretty much any stream you want to explore in the Cumberland River basin.

Is the stream that runs through my yard healthy? If it’s unhealthy, what’s wrong with it? And what can I do to help? iCreek will tell you all this and more. 

Take action: organize a cleanup

Once you've learned about the issues in your creek, you might want to take the next step and call on friends and neighbors to volunteer for a cleanup. While trash may not be a waterway impairment, per se, it can be harmful to wildlife and unpleasant to look at.

Waterway cleanups are a great way to get your feet wet, have a little adventure, and give back to nature. Removing debris that may otherwise clog the creek can also help reduce flooding.

River cleanup on the Cumberland


Beware: cleaning trash from a stream is highly addictive and may lead to obsession. If this has happened to you, we encourage you to become part of our Adopt-A-Stream program! It maybe a bit of an exaggeration, but our stream adopters are committed and passionate volunteers that are always up for a challenge. Adopting groups participate in 1-2 cleanups of their stream per year, as well as other stewardship activities like tree plantings, invasive species removal, and education their neighbors or coworkers about what they are doing to protect their creek. In 2017 and 2018, Adopt-A-Stream volunteers removed over one thousand, four hundred bags of trash from our waterways.

Visit our website if you like to get involved in our Adopt-A-Stream program.

Remember, the land and water we steward today is what we leave to our children. So let’s leave them the best possible place to live, and let’s do it together.

If you’re reading these blogs, you’re taking the first step, so now go and talk to your friends, your neighbors, and do some digging to learn about your local creek.

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About the author

Jed Grubbs serves as the Program Manager of Watershed Planning and Restoration for the Cumberland River Compact and leads the organization's partnership with the Nature Conservancy to develop and implement watershed restoration, protection, and management planning throughout the Cumberland River Basin.

You may spot Jed exploring the watershed and studying area trees and birds.

To learn more about Jed's work and what the Cumberland River Compact is doing throughout Nashville and the basin, visit the Cumberland River Basin.