These are the words out of the mouths of babes. Who will lead them? For awhile, we were treating the polluted water issue with caution thrown to the wind. I attended a party once where you were required to take off your shoes. Everyone put their shoes in a big pile in the middle of the floor. The pile of shoes was jumbled making each pair mismatched. Somebody blew a whistle and we all collided in a frenzy trying to find the ones that belonged to us.
I think most of us ended up with concussions and bloody open wounds. Now there were better ways to find our shoes and unclutter the mess. It wouldn’t have been as much fun.
That is the way we use to treat our polluted waters. It was no fun to clean them up so we just endangered our lives and that of others while we tried to sort it all out.
We threw caution to wind and increased our concrete coverage. No need for silt fences during construction cause little critters down stream would have to adapt to less oxygen in the water. There were too many of them anyway and the rest of the animals up the chain were getting too fat. Reducing their population was almost necessary. We thought.
No need to preserve and protect. You may think this mildly esoteric and kooky but there are some people who have a more organized shoe finding method and are pairing up things quite nicely. The results are adding enormous value to our economy here in NC. There is an emergent awareness of the resident fauna and flora and it is thriving again.
The pelicans in NC are a great success story. At one time, there were less than 5,000 pair. Their habitat has seen less human disturbance and the numbers have doubled. The healthy water systems have helped to maintain balance upstream. When we incorporate measures to clean our water before it dumps in to local streams, we improve the habitat down stream. The critter population from beginning to end benefits.
NC grew too quickly that caused run off from construction sites to deposit silt down stream. This suffocated our crayfish and all the animals who fed on them decreased in numbers due to a lack of food. NC State University is studying techniques that builders can use to filter the water before it reaches our ground water sources.
The university is testing coconut and jute fiber products that collect the silt before it leaves the building site. A holding pond is constructed and the run off will filter through those fibers greatly reducing the silt saturation level. In a normal run off basin, 40% of the silt settlement will overflow or leach in to the underground water systems or stream beds. With this jute and coconut system, 90% of the settlement is filtered out. The solid is scooped out and reused on site. It cost less to clean the water before than after. It is an increased cost to the developer which will be passed on the consumer.
You will have to decide if it is worth it and North Carolina has decided that Yes!, it is worth it. When we keep our waters clean, there is an increase in people wanting to visit our state. Those tourist dollars who like to see the crayfish in the streams and watch the birds fly overhead scouting them out will bring financial stability to our state. This increases jobs and adds more wealth to our local economy.
The Conservation Enhancement Program Land Trust Fund pays farmers to establish buffers so run off in creeks don’t put the crayfish out of their home. Farmers in NC are paid to leave a wide unfarmed area away from any stream, lake, or body of water. Less pesticides and oxygen starving silt enter through waters because there is time and space for it to be leached out before entering the waterways.
The Cape Fear river has seen a decline in their shrimping industry due to run off pollution. The Cape Fear water is at the end of many creeks and rivers. Many waters from NC eventually flow to the Cape Fear. This is not a direct pollution problem but is an upstream condition. It is hoped that with the new standards in place there will be an increase in shrimp populations. This area has completely lost their brown shrimp fishing populations. This lack of supply drives up cost. You either pay now or pay later. Most of us would rather pay at the source so we can save more later.
One way in which our state is trying to overcome the problem is to attack it at the source. Roots of trees that grow on the side of stream beds are the first screen in filtering out silt that chokes the water critters. Stopping the farmers from taking those trees and shrubs down, stops a good deal of the silted run off. Nets are also being used where applicable.
The little tiny fresh water muscle is seeing a come-back due to these efforts to clean the water. Muscles are bivalve animals and filter large amounts of the naturally occurring silt saturation.
If you decrease the numbers of muscles with too much silt, then you also decrease the fish numbers who dine on them. These little muscles are vital to ecosystems. Fish eat algae and birds eat fish. The fresh water muscles clean the streams and act as little siphons and help us all.
Muscles can’t do it alone. Freshwater and waste-water treatment plants use chemicals like ammonia and chloride to help clean the waters to make them safe for drinking. This is an added expense to us but worth the cost. Most people do not realize that a treatment plant must be manned 24hrs a day. Without it, you would be sick and so would our waters. Waste-water treatment plants filter our water and put it back in to the rivers to be used again.
Water is finite with 3 percent being fresh. 2/3 is locked up in the north and south poles. Waters for the whole world run in aquifers under ground and transmit it all over the world. What you do in one country could very easily affect someone else in another.
The aquifers are little underground tunnels made from layers of clay and other Geo substances. These layers are the protection between us and our water source. People tap in to these aquafers by drilling wells for irrigation systems and other such water requirements. Those up stream from the aquafer suffer- geology dictates where our water comes from and remember it’s a finite source. We could change its chemical make-up leaving it unusable for human,animal, and plant consumption.
Use it efficiently. NC industries and agriculture are actively setting goals to use less water. The animals and microbial life need us to maintain these water levels and quality. NC cares and is taking an active role. I am proud to live here.
The question of how to have cleaner water and air was asked by North Carolina. Instead of looking at the problem through the consequences, we choose to look at it through the solution. Before you lose the the freedom to choose clean drinking water, won’t you be careful. It does matter.
Pictures: From my garden on December 10, 2008
Sources: A combination of material from NC State University, UNC-ED television, and experiences taken with me on my journey through–My North Carolina.