Living along a creek can enrich your daily life in a number of ways. The tranquil sound of flowing water, the smell of fresh air, the beautiful scenery of tree-lined banks and the proximity to wildlife and nature are just some of the perks associated with living near a creek.

Having access to these natural elements comes with key responsibilities. Good creek neighbors protect the waterway and natural habitat, help keep the water clean and respect the property line. If you share a property line with a creek, you play a special role in keeping our creeks healthy, clean and flowing.

Below are some tips and reminders to help you be a good creek neighbor.

Respect the property line

A healthy stream is a beautiful natural resource and a wonderful amenity that can bolster a property’s value. Before completing any additional work on your property, verify your property lines. The water district requires permits for any work on its property or easement area to prevent any potential damages or actions that could increase the risk of flooding. So check to make sure you’re completely on your property before constructing a pool or patio, adding or removing vegetation, grading, dredging, mining or taking water from a creek.

The water district’s Water Resources Protection Ordinance defines the requirement to obtain permits for projects or activities that occur on district fee title property or within district easements. The ordinance outlines the water district’s role as the county’s wholesale water supplier, flood protection agency,  and steward of streams, watersheds and natural resources, as described in the District Act. This ordinance keeps us accountable for serving the residents of Santa Clara County in protecting our natural resources, but also enables the district to protect its property and projects.

Projects done on district property or easements without permits are not only in violation of the Water Resources Protection Ordinance, they can impede the water district’s ability to carry out necessary services and project. Violations can result in fines, penalties and payment for the cost of removal and restoration of original property conditions.

To verify your property line and inquire about permits, call the water district’s Community Projects Review Hotline at 408-630-2650.  

Avoid polluting, dumping or draining to your creek

While most people know trash and chemicals don’t belong in a creek, you’d be surprised to learn the kinds of objects and materials that end up in our local waterways. Dumping anything into a creek is illegal and can cause blockages that increase the risk of flooding, and negatively affect the water quality and health of creek habitat. You can help by keeping an eye out for illegal dumping and reporting a violation at the water district’s pollution hotline: 888-510-5151.

Sometimes residents and businesses unknowingly contribute to creek pollution by way of trash and chemicals used. When rain falls on roads, parking lots and other urban surfaces it runs off, picking up pollutants from these surfaces. The now polluted water flows into the storm drain system and directly to our local creeks, bays and groundwater aquifers, where it can be toxic to fish, wildlife and people.

To help prevent pollution:

  • Minimize your use of fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides.
  • Don’t flush unused medicines or waste down a toilet, sink or storm drain. Call the Santa Clara County Household Hazardous Waste Program for proper disposal at 408-299-7300.
  • Drain pool or spa water to the sanitary sewer, not a creek or a storm drain.
  • Direct roof drains to landscape areas
  • Call the water district’s pollution hotline:  888-510-5151.
  • Report violations on our customer service online system, Access Valley Water

Respect the natural habitat

You’ve verified your property line, obtained proper permits and are looking forward to sprucing up the vegetation near the creek bank. Before you begin your project, remember that natural habitat around streams helps fish and wildlife, while protecting the quality of water. Native plants local to the watershed are essential to stream ecosystems,  as they provide food to wildlife, require little to no fertilization and are drought-tolerant. Learn more about which plants are good for your area with help from the California Native Plant Society.

To keep creek environments as natural as possible, avoid cutting down trees or removing tree shade canopies. Don’t remove fallen trees along creeks or woody debris, unless it is causing a blockage and preventing the flow of water. You can also report blockages on Access Valley Water or by calling 408-630-2378.

Good Neighbor Fence Program

If your shared fence is in need of replacement, the water district’s Good Neighbor Fence Program can help pay for half of the actual cost of the fence, up to $14.40 per lineal foot. The program is for creekside neighbors who have a water district parcel adjacent to their property. Contact the water district prior to starting any work. To qualify for the cost share program you must have a water district permit issued before construction takes place.

For more information visit www.valleywater.org/programs/GoodNeighborFences.aspx .

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