The biggest challenge to the health of the Cahaba River are the changes to the River's natural flow and water quality due to human development.

Urban growth can strengthen communities, but damage the river.  Replacing forests with paving increases stormwater runoff, erosion, pollution, and flooding, and also prevents groundwater recharge, which reduces water in the river during drought. These are the top threats to our drinking water and to life in the River.

These photos were taken at the intersection of the Cahaba River and Grants Mill Road in Irondale. From left to right, these images show the Cahaba after a rain, on a good day, and during the 2016 drought.

The Cahaba River Basin is home to the highest rate of population growth in the state of Alabama. The rapid urbanization of formerly natural areas around the Cahaba River has caused increased threats to the River due to mud pollution, riverbank collapses, drought, pathogens, invasive plants, and forest and habitat loss.

Cahaba River Society supports healthy growth in communities around the River, but the Cahaba can only continue to be a valuable natural resource and a source of healthy, affordable drinking water for Birmingham and the region if urban growth does not degrade the River. Unfortunately, urban impacts have been damaging to the River, increasing the cost to treat our drinking water and leaving us less water supply during drought, when we need it the most. This can lead to water restrictions and higher surcharge rates during drought situations.

Cahaba River Society works collaboratively with governments, businesses, and civic groups to improve how development projects are designed and built. Green Infrastructure stormwater design is essential. Photo by Hunter Nichols.

Cahaba River Society: an Advocate for River-Protective Growth

Cahaba River Society works collaboratively with governments, businesses, and civic groups to improve how development projects are designed and built. Green infrastructure stormwater design is essential.

Cahaba River Society is the leading environmental nonprofit expert working with local governments and developers to improve stormwater design for new development. We promote green infrastructure, practices like rain gardens and pervious paving that reduce urban runoff and address the top threats to drinking water and biodiversity.

In 2018, Cahaba River Society won a major success to improve management of urban runoff, the top threat to our drinking water and the River's freshwater life! Because of our work leading environmental partners, cities and counties in the upper watershed have adopted improved stormwater codes and practices for new development, towards achieving the state’s official goals to reduce stormwater pollution–mud, nutrients, and human disease pathogens.

Because Cahaba River Society has developed relationships as a trusted expert resource for city leaders, in 2018 we were able to work closely in just 6 weeks with Vestavia Hills, Mountain Brook, Homewood, Irondale, and Trussville to greatly improve their stormwater codes.

Invasive Plants on the Cahaba River

Another threat to the Cahaba River is the spread of invasive plants and animals.

One invasive plant, Wild Taro, Colocasia esculenta, is a non-native plant that can displace native stream bank and mid-stream plants by over-shading and by emitting toxins from its roots.

It is invading the Cahaba River's banks and shoals, threatening the native American water willow, Justicia americana, and the Cahaba lily, Hymenocallis coronaria, which provide spawning habitats for a large number of aquatic species.

Click below to learn more about invasive wild taro on the Cahaba River and what you can do to help stop its spread.