10 Facts on Wetlands Values!

September 19, 2016

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A wetland is a habitat where land is covered by water – salt, fresh, or a mixture of both. A wetland is a distinct ecosystem. Marshes, bogs, ponds and deltas are all examples of wetlands. No Water No Life is focusing our social media this week on the importance of wetlands, threats they face, and possible solutions to conserving our wetlands for generations to come. Here are 10 facts about wetlands you may not know!

  1. Wetlands provide habitat to in numerous species of mammals, insects, and aquatic life.
  2. Wetlands are some of the most productive ecosystems on earth! The amount of living matter in a wetland can be 10 to 100 times that of dry land nearby. TZ-B-W-208.jpg
  3. More than 1/3 of threatened and endangered species in the U.S live only in wetlands, and nearly half use wetlands at some point in their lives.
  4. Wetlands provide the perfect habitat for growing rice – a staple food for more than half the world. 
  5. When thousands of species of birds set off to migrate varied distances across the globe every year, wetlands serve as the perfect “pit stop” for them providing crucial food and protection before they reach their final stop.
  6. Wetlands purify water in our streams, rivers, and oceans. Scientists have estimated wetlands can remove 70 to 90% of entering nitrogen! Jones_080815_BC_8213.jpg
  7. The Atchafalaya Basin in Louisiana is the largest wetland area in the U.S, and serves as a storm barrier for much of southern Louisiana.
  8. Wetlands help mitigate flooding because their soil acts like a sponge. It soaks up and holds water, thus slowing its velocity. It is estimated that wetlands provide $23.2 billion worth of flood protection per year!
  9. Wetlands protect shorelines and stream banks from erosion and absorb wave energy. Water plants hold soil in its place with their roots.
  10. Wetlands hold a special cultural and historic role for humans! We can use them for sustainable recreation, artwork, and even spiritual relief. Wetlands contribute greatly to our quality of life and health of our planet! Jones_080204_ET_8165.jpg

Dakota Pipeline – A Cautionary Tale

September 9, 2016

Native American tribes and others from all over the country have joined the Standing Rock Sioux to protest the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline [DAPL]. The proposed pipeline would cross 4 states carrying natural gas extracted via horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing [aka fracking] from North Dakota Bakken Oil Fields to Illinois. The complaints focus on the traditional values of our rivers, which we shouldn’t belittle. Our rivers provide sustenance (fish and medicinal plants), clean water to drink, and a spiritual and cultural refuge.

The specific concerns about this 1,172-mile pipeline begin with DAPL’s construction methods that would violate Sioux treaty agreements and desecrate their sacred areas. Once constructed, any leakage from the 30”diameter pipe (just under 3 feet of soil mostly) would threaten contamination within a large 4-state swath of the Missouri River Basin. Ruptures or spills could contaminate agricultural areas, roads, rivers, lakes and streams.  In arid areas damage to groundwater resources would be devastating.

The Native Tribes protesting at Standing Rock are getting the most media attention on this issue – especially those on horseback. Yet they certainly aren’t the only ones who would be affected by a DALP environmental catastrophe. The global issue is that there will eventually be greenhouse gas emissions from this oil, increasing everyone’s vulnerability to global impacts of climate change – floods, droughts, increased severe weather events, and sea level rise.

The local issue is that the Dakota Access pipeline will would carry 570,000 barrels of oil per day across 50 counties of North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois.  It will cross under two tributaries to the Mississippi River: The Des Moines River and the Missouri River.

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Too frequently there are pipeline spills. The Riverkeepers website addresses the risks of transporting crude oil with an annotated list of recent crude oil pipeline ruptures and spills.

RECENT NOTABLE CRUDE OIL PIPELINE ruptures and spills

April 2016 Freeman SD 
A spill of 16,800 gallons of tar sand oil

May 2015  –   Santa Barbara CA
143,000 galloons of crude oil released, and 21,000 spilled into Pacific Ocean

Jan 2015  – Yellowstone River MT
Drinking water contaminated by 31,000 gals of oil spilled into frozen river

Dec 2014  Belton SC
Over 300,000 gallons of gasoline spilled

Oct. 2014 – Caddo Parisih LA
Pipeline killed wildlife as it spilled over 4,000 barrels of crude

Oct. 2013 – Smithville T
Pipeline spilled 17,000 gallons of crude oil

Sept. 2013  –   Tioga, ND
Over 20,000 barrels crude oil leaked into a wheat field

Mar. 2013 – Mayflower ARK
Rupture of 100’s of 1000’s of gallons of heavy crude into neighborhoods

Jul. 2010  – Kalamazoo River MI
Rupture oiled 40 miles of river with heavy crude bitumin

If an accident like any of the above were to occur along the DAPL, it could affect the Missouri River or any of its tributaries along the route. These streams provide a resource upon which 18 million people depend upon for clean drinking water.  A spill could also impact crops, prairie habitat and residential communities.

The fracking that produces the crude oil to be carried by DAPL releases less greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than burning coal – however, the use of natural gas puts much more CO2 into our atmosphere than other new sustainable energy sources. NWNL urges the implementation of renewable, sustainable green energy like solar panels, wind powered turbines, and wave energy.

Solving the negative impacts of this oil pipeline at this late date is problematic.  It is unfortunate that in this century business and governmental decisions are too often made without enough honest and transparent risk analysis.  We should listen more to the Native Americans protesting this pipeline who come from a heritage of analyzing impacts seven generations in the future before committing to risky ventures.

A ruling on the Sioux’s lawsuit with the Army Core of Engineers is expected to come out today. NWNL hopes it will be one small step in resolving the ongoing controversy over big oil and environmental conservation.

 


A Blind Eye to Flooding – No More Excuses

September 2, 2016

By Alison Jones, No Water No Life Director

NWNL sends our sympathies to those suffering from Hermine’s winds and rains. As this hurricane slashes its way north, we hope for the least amount of flood damage possible.

As 2012’s Superstorm Sandy and August’s Louisiana Floods showed, we have created a bad scenario along our waterways. Our approach to coastal development is probably as much to blame for flooding devastation as is the severe weather due to the warming of our atmosphere by climate change.

Ten days ago NWNL wrote a blog on the Louisiana flooding noting the critical need for green infrastructure in order to mitigate storm impacts. We also urged the adaptation of alternative energies to fossil fuels.

Andrew Revkin, renowned science and environmental journalist, retweeted our blog, saying:   “Super No Water No Life post on hazards with growth in a soggy state.”  Today Revkin’s  New York Times Dot Earth blog details how we’ve lost awareness of the reality and the raison d’etre of floodplains and wetlands.

Our coastlands and riverine corridors are meant to filter and absorb both floodwaters and their nutrients.  They are meant to be nutrient-rich ecosystems for flora and fauna, that in turn support human needs.   The water’s edge was never meant to be a platform for tipi’s, trailers, cottages or mansions.

Indigenous builders respected Nature’s rhythms and whims. Their homes were simply-built and often mobile. If destroyed, their ruin did not pollute land or water with masses of chemical or plastic debris. The French, who settled in Creole communities up and down the Lower Mississippi River 200 years ago, also paid attention to the realities of flooding rivers and deltas. They knew better than to rebuild time and time again in flood paths.

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Missouri: St Genevieve, the Creole Green Tree Tavern, surviving Mississippi River Flood of 1993.

This summer NWNL cruised New Jersey’s Sandy Hook inland waterway – the lovely Shrewsbury and Navasink Rivers. It was shocking to see that this spit of land, like so many, has been completely re-built since Sandy’s whiplash destruction.

Those of us on this NY/NJ Baykeeper cruise cringed to think what would happen when the lapping waters of August next jumped over relatively minimal breakwaters and seawalls. We are cringing again this weekend. If not this weekend, when?


A Nameless Louisiana Flood: Tragedy and Case Study

August 22, 2016

By Alison M. Jones

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No Water No Life’s thoughts are with all who’ve lost so much in Louisiana, particularly in eastern Baton Rouge. In our 5 watershed expeditions in the Lower Mississippi River Basin, we have learned much about flooding. This essay analyzes the history, causes and devastating effects of high-water events in Louisiana, and all floodplain areas. We believe the solutions involve us all.

FLOODPLAINS  Approximately 1/6th of Louisiana’s acreage is bayous, lakes, swamps and rivers. Southern Louisiana is a floodplain. As one sign says, “It’s called a floodplain because it’s plain that it floods.” It is perfect habitat for turtles, waterfowl and bald cypress trees.

Periodically, a rain-swollen Mississippi River or hurricanes bring floods. This month’s catastrophe was due to an “inland, sheared tropical depression.” Those most impacted  are not turtles, waterfowl or swamp cypress. They are humans.

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A RIVER TOWN  Baton Rouge, the first bluff north of the Mississippi River Delta, was settled circa 1,200-6,000 BC.  The Native American Mississippian  hunter-gatherers used the river and this flood-safe bluff to trade throughout the Mississippi and Ohio River Valleys. Europeans followed and established Baton Rouge in 1699. Since then, families, communities and industries on and around the bluff have both thrived and suffered because of water.

The Mississippi River has driven Baton Rouge’s economy since its busy steamboat days. River transport made Baton Rouge a major U.S. industrial and petro-chemical center. The Port of Greater Baton Rouge is the 10th largest port in shipped tonnage. Now this port is handling the new Panamax ships to carry even greater amounts of grain, crude oil, cars and containers.

But with these benefits of the river – and the rains that feed it – come floods. The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 affected 630,000 people. Herbert Hoover called it the “greatest peacetime calamity” in U.S. history. More devastating floods occurred in 1973, 1983 and 2011. The May 1995 Louisiana Flood dumped up to 20” of rain, causing over $3.1 million in damages. Each time, personal and economic damage has affected Louisiana and the U.S.

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SOGGY FOUNDATIONS and POOR PLANNING   For centuries, floods have swept away buildings, businesses, crops, and human lives. Whether a columned plantation or colorful trailer, the loss of a home entails the loss of investments, lifestyles and irreplaceable intangibles from family photos and holiday décor to BBQ patio moments.

Some say that everyone lives in a flood zone. Perhaps. But certainly flooding impacts are spreading wider. TV commentators of this 2016 Louisiana flood simply say the water has nowhere to go. Why?  New land development has created greater floods since construction has diverted natural runoff paths. As economies and populations grew, housing booms focused more on needs than risks. Developers covered wetlands and built on flood plains. Thus, urban and suburban development extended flooding beyond designated zones on FEMA maps.

Could that have been stopped? In the 1990’s and 2000’s Baton Rouge became one of the fastest-growing cities in the South. From 2000 to 2010 Baton Rouge’s population grew by about 33%. Ironically, in 2005 Hurricane Katrina flood refugees from New Orleans fled north, further causing Baton Rouge’s population to surge.

In hindsight, zoning regulations should have been stricter forty or fifty years ago. Wetlands should have been protected. Sprawl should have been addressed and discouraged.  These measures can still be instituted; and rebuilding on soggy ground can still be regulated.

FACING THE WEATHER  How can southern Louisiana and other low-lying regions mitigate, if not protect, impacts of future floods? Engineers, government, low-lying communities and all of us must face predictions of continued record-breaking rainfalls and increasingly high moisture levels in our atmosphere. Such extreme weather events used to be rare, often over 500 years apart. But since last May, eight similar, flood-producing heavy rainstorms have occurred in the U.S., according to meteorologist Eric Holthaus. If indeed this is a “classic signal of climate change, as claimed by Climate Nexus, we must implement immediate remedies.

PREVENTION  Possible solutions are big and small in scope. They can come from top-down and bottom-up efforts. We hear on TV that homes should be rebuilt on higher foundations. The reality is they should be rebuilt elsewhere. That’s the big solution: a complex and expensive remedy needing brave leadership and community commitment. It has been done. After severe floods in 2007 and 2008, Gays Mills, Wisconsin, is now moving its residences and commerce uphill from the Kickapoo River Floodplain. But Gays Mills is a much smaller community than eastern Baton Rouge, and it has taken almost a decade to accomplish and fund.

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MITIGATION  Louisiana and other floodplains can take steps smaller than relocation that will at least mitigate flooding effects. Small acts of sustainability really can lessen the impacts of flooding.

–Roads and parking areas can have porous surfaces, allowing water to seep through.

–Zoning can limit impermeable surfaces for renovated and new development.

–More trees can be planted so their deep roots can absorb excess waters.

–Rain gardens, bio-swales and other green elements can be implemented in residential, commercial, industrial and institutional settings to help absorb and divert run-off.

–Artificial wetlands can be built and existing wetlands saved so nature can again fulfill its role of storing floodwaters.

–Flood maps can be updated for today’s extreme weather.

These mitigations apply all across the country beyond already known flood regions! While global warming may seem like a slow climb up an endless ladder, its effects periodically pull that ladder right out from under us. Some of those moments have names like Katrina, Sandy and Irene. Some events are nameless but just as devastating, as Louisiana now knows.

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FOSSIL FUELS AND FLOODS   Beyond community-based mitigation, there is one major remedy that involves us all. Industrial emissions from across the globe – and even from Baton Rouge plants on the Mississippi River – contribute to climate disruption and the intensification of storms such as Louisiana’s 32-inch downpour this month. Ironically, Louisiana is a state known for its oil and gas industries – and for its floods. Fossil fuels and floods are co-joined in Louisiana, creating a cause-and-effect cycle.

Beyond Louisiana though, our national dependence on fossil fuels makes all of us partly responsible for the losses in Baton Rouge’s flood this summer. Our heavy use of cars and often-excessive consumption contribute to carbon emissions that indiscriminately hurt us all. We can cut back to essentials! Also you can join NWNL in following and sharing news of clean-energy technologies, including “Bladeless Wind Turbines” and solar highways producing crystal-powered energy.

OUR FUTURE   Today, we can all help Louisiana residents with gifts to Red Cross or LEAN – Louisiana Environmental Action Network, a local Baton Rouge organization NWNL has worked with.

Just as importantly, both today and tomorrow, we can all proactively support new, sustainable energy resources.  This will improve the future of existing flood-prone communities from Baton Rouge to Houston; from St Louis to Miami; West Virginia to South Carolina and worldwide.

By supporting measures to stop building in floodplains and efforts to lessen weather-related disasters, we say to Baton Rouge residents that we are one with them – and their children.

 

 


Happy World Elephant Day!

August 12, 2016

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By Christina Belasco, NWNL Project Manager

Today we celebrate and advocate on behalf of the iconic and magnificent elephant. As a keystone species and overall flagship symbol of conservation, the value of these creatures cannot be understated. Elephants are extremely intelligent, loving, and are an irreplaceable part of our natural world and landscape, which is why we must act now to save them from the numerous threats they face.

Elephants are an important key to biodiversity as they create crucial habitat with their seed dispersal. Their huge footprints even create mini pools in the ground for bugs and small flora.

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Elephants are extremely social, and the water hole is an important place to them. Besides being a vital source of life, elephants use the water hole to mingle with one another and play. They form bonds and friendships, just as many other species do.

The greatest threats to elephants are poaching for the ivory trade and habitat loss due to deforestation. We can all stand up to the ivory trade now by refusing to buy ivory and supporting habitat protection and restoration.

Here are two organizations that No Water No Life has personally connected with in its documentation of elephants in the Mara River Basin:

Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

Save The Elephants

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Microbeads – Harm Behind the Product

July 7, 2016

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It’s time to rethink the hygienic products we use. Those tiny little beads in our peach scented facial scrub are doing much more than just exfoliating our skin. A large number of studies have shown that these tiny microbeads have extremely harmful impacts on the environment.

Once they get swept down the sink, the beads don’t just simply disappear. Microbeads are too small to be caught in wastewater systems, and end up flowing out to pollute our rivers, lakes, and oceans.

In 2011, a survey of the Great Lakes showed that Lake Eerie had up to 600,000 plastic particles per square kilometer.

Thankfully President Obama signed a bipartisan bill in December that bans microbeads, but it won’t take affect until 2017. Just last week, Canada listed microbeads as toxic, and are likely to pass a ban on the product as well.

In the meantime, be conscious of the beauty and hygienic products you are using!

To find out if a product you are considering purchasing has microbeads, there is an app available from Beat The Microbead that will give information on any product when they are scanned.

Here is a list of common products that contain microbeads.

Change your habits and change the world!


Moving Towards Sanitary Water Solutions in Ethiopia

June 16, 2016

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“Sanitation is more important than political independence.” – Mahatma Gandhi, 1925

More and more people around the world are paying attention to the acronym WASH, which stands for water and sanitation health. WASH is an important part of international aid efforts to raise awareness and focus on the need for clean water in developing countries.

In Ethiopia the need for clean water is great, but communities are struggling to find access to clean water for drinking and sanitation all around the country from the Omo River Basin in the south to the Nile River Basin in the north.

Ethiopia has a population of nearly 99 million, and just under half of this population lacks access to safe water. Even more shockingly, two thirds of Ethiopians lack access to clean water and facilities for sanitation.

Water supplies are often contaminated as they come from shallow, unprotected ponds that are at times shared with animals. Rainwater also washes waste from surrounding areas to the source. This has a plethora of negative impacts on communities’ health and safety.

In rural parts of the country, women and children have to walk up to six hours to collect water. The jugs women and children carry back to their village filled with water weigh up to 40 pounds.

Addressing the severity of these major issues, there are a few groups working to provide Ethiopia with clean water solutions that NWNL supports.

Soapply is a company based in the United States that sells organic and non-toxic soap. With each purchase of their soap, Soapply funds up to $10 worth of water, sanitation, and hygiene initiatives in the Blue Nile region of Tigray in northern Ethiopia.

In other parts of Africa, the Hippo Roller has become a popular way to transport large amounts of water easily. Their large cylinders roll on the ground and are pushed with a metal handle bar. This takes much of the load off villagers transporting water and allows them to carry up to 5 times as much water as a bucket.

No Water No Life encourages you to save water at home and spread awareness of solutions to water availability and sanitation issues elsewhere!


USGS Studies Pharmaceuticals in our Streams

June 3, 2016

CA: Santa Barbara, Medicines

 

Blog by Christina Belasco, Project Manager

The USGS just released a study of 59 streams in the Southeastern United States ranging from Georgia to Virginia. Alarmingly, the study showed that every single one of these streams tested positive for pollution by pharmaceutical compounds.

These compounds have a wide variety of negative impacts on the entire aquatic ecosystem including altering the base of the food web, affecting neurotransmitters for many aquatic insects, and affecting the reproductive health of fish.

One of the main causes of this pollution is homeowners’ tendency to flush unused medications down the toilet. There are alternatives to this harmful habit.

There are many community based drug “take-back” programs you may use to dispose of your medicine – call your local government to find out more information. Otherwise disposing your medicine in the trash is the best option. Take action today to prevent your medicine from polluting local waterways.

Share this information with your friends, and let us know how you help keep your streams clean.

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Map of tested streams courtesy of USGS


Earth Day is a Positive Day

April 22, 2016
Blog by Alison M. Jones, NWNL Director

For conservation photographer Gary Braasch, who authored Earth Under Fire, every day was Earth Day. Here are his words, taken from our 2011 NWNL Interview on Climate Change with Gary.

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“OK, change your light bulbs — BUT then change the laws.”

“We have so many tools – hundreds of technologies that can reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. What we are missing is the political movement.”

“Each person needs to talk to their neighbors; get involved in politics; learn basic facts about climate change and how it affects their community and the nation; and be willing to talk about it.

“The history of environmental protection is a HISTORY OF SUCCESS. We are all living healthier lives; the air is cleaner; and the water is cleaner, despite all the issues we still have. That’s because of the laws we put in.”

As Gary said, each of us must believe we can make a difference.

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HAPPY EARTH DAY!


Raritan River Week!

April 12, 2016
New Jersey, reflections of sycamore trees in Lamington River, tributary of Upper Raritan River

New Jersey, reflections of sycamore trees in Lamington River, tributary of Upper Raritan River

We love the Raritan River!

Celebrate RARITAN RIVER WEEK
April 16-30, 2016!

Check out the events page for rain barrel workshops, nature walks, stream cleanups, composting/gardening sessions and more for people of all ages to enjoy! There’s also a great list of resources for the region which includes maps of parks and protected areas, a book list, and lesson plans for teachers.

Did you know that there’s a Quarterly publication called Raritan too?Raritan offers writers and readers the opportunity for sustained reflection and aesthetic pleasure, uncluttered by academic jargon. Founded in 1981 by the distinguished literary critic Richard Poirier, and supported by Rutgers University, Raritan aims to reach the common reader in everyone and to provide a particular experience of reading, one that nurtures an engaged and questioning approach to cultural texts of all sorts: literary, artistic, political, historical, sociological, even scientific.”

USA: New Jersey, Raritan River Basin

USA: New Jersey, Raritan River Basin


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