So what is it about clean water that this paddling journey aims to shed some light upon? I’d bet that most people don’t know that more than half of our nation’s rivers and streams – from the mighty Mississippi to small headwater streams and creeks – are impaired in their ability to support healthy aquatic life. Only 21% of our rivers and streams are classified as being in good condition, while the majority of our nation’s waters – 55% from coast to coast are considered poor, including 70% of rivers and streams from the Gulf coast to New Jersey.
This assessment of our streams was the result of a multiyear study conducted by the EPA, the National Rivers and Streams Assessment. (Here is a quick summary.) The data collected and summarized during this study – sadly – wasn’t news to me. I’ve seen it up close and personal – having paddled from Miami to Maine, most of the Gulf coast, and from Seattle to San Diego since 2007. I’ve witnessed the results the impact upon our water resources, but I’ve met so many people all along the way who care enough to take action locally to help mitigate those impacts.
That’s just our inland waters. Our oceans fare no better. The U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy – chartered by the 106th Congress in 2000 – conducted a comprehensive study and made several recommendations which have yet to be implemented a decade after the their final recommendations in 2004. Studies provide objective observation and assessment but sometimes the science is just right in front of your face. When I was growing up in the 70s and 80s, it was unimaginable that we could actually alter something as vast as our oceans. But we’ve changed the chemistry of the oceans, and along with it the ecology and its affect on the food web and everything which is based upon it. I think its a sad statement that not only is it not unimaginable to today’s children that we have a future without fish or corals, but these alarming developments are actually occurring in real time.
Water is our most precious resource. Droughts are impacting California, there’s floods in Texas, Florida’s facing a water crisis, Lake Erie is having record algae blooms, and many of our nation’s streams are too polluted for swimming or to use as drinking water. We can’t ignore these problems, we’ve got to fix them, and they are fixable. Sometimes the solution is actually very simple. Natural resources can come back on their own if we just provide them the opportunity to do so. I know this because I’ve also seen the success stories first hand and they’re all around also. But to do so, it requires people who care to take action – which is the core of activism. This is what I and my paddling journeys are all about – a call to action.
A lot of our problems in the ocean are land-based. My message is the same: We need clean water, we need to protect our waterways, we need to save our ocean — not just for the environmental aspect, not just to save the fish — but also to save us humans. We celebrate and understand the importance of diversity in nature, and a very diverse economy is a very strong economy. When you have one or two larger companies that are allowed to pollute, all the businesses that depend on clean water downstream are affected as well as the people.
Diversity is crucial to a system’s success. All systems, whether its our gut with a healthy population of diverse bacteria, or a forest, or a tundra, or the ocean, whatever the area, whatever the region, whatever the system, diversity builds resiliency and health. So to, we must have a diverse group of folks willing to speak up and take action for our waterways, drinking water, and ocean. Until we are all invested in this amazing resource, we are NOT “all in.”
About the new Clean Water Rule:
Yes, clean water rules have been have on books for decades, so what is the issue now? Clean Water Act protections for our waterways and wetlands have been steadily eroded since 2001 by loopholes carved into the Act by polluters and developers. These loopholes put the drinking water of 117 million Americans at risk of pollution. On May 27th, just days after my journey began last year(2015), the EPA released the final Clean Water Rule, which restores those much-needed protections. Read more here: http://www2.epa.gov/cleanwaterrule/why-clean-water-rules
People should tie the Clean Water Rule into a healthy lives and a healthy economy. The rule is sorely needed, as it will help ensure the places we swim, fish and paddle are protected. Every day drives home the need for this as I paddle along my route where the greater threat is the pollution you don’t see.
So please, if you care about clean water, please sign a petition, email, make a phone call and thank the EPA for these common sense solutions which will go a long way to help stem the flow of water pollution.
The Clean Water Rule is currently under heavy attack. The U.S. House recently passed a bill to derail the rule, and the Senate is trying to pass a similar bill. Please add your name to thousands of Americans calling on Congress to support clean water. You can also be one of the 50,000 petitioners thanking President Obama for supporting healthy water.
Clean water rules; dirty water sucks, and we need these Clean Water Rules!