Earth action hero: Master Water Steward Program

Sustainability is not just an ideal—it can also be a practical solution. As a Master Water Steward, Cathie Briggs supports clean water education on behalf of the Nine Mile Creek Watershed District and applies her knowledge to her home and garden. Butterflies, dragonflies and fireflies are just a few of the pollinators that visit her garden brimming with native plants. Its strategically placed water collection and infiltration systems help protect water.

  Briggs has two rain gardens connected with meandering channels weighted by stones, which act as catch basins for water runoff. When it rains, the otherwise dry creek beds flow like streams. Water cascades into rain gardens to be infiltrated into groundwater instead of running unfiltered directly into storm drains. The system helps keep our lakes and marshes free of pollutants and keeps her basement dry.

While cardinal flower, coneflower, catmint and other natives dominate her landscape, hosta, phlox, and other non-natives are in the mix. Together they create a beautiful garden of low-maintenance plants. Occasional weeding and annual mulching is all that is required once plants are established. 

“One of the best ways to involve others in sustainability is to help them apply it in practical ways,” Briggs said. “I encourage people to find out what watershed they are located in, contact that organization and make use of the tools and programs available.”

To find your watershed, visit