How Wolves Change Rivers

This video, How Wolves Change Rivers, explains the “balance-of-nature“ phenomena scientists call a “trophic cascade.” NWNL also documented this on its Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem Expedition in 2008. When wolves were reintroduced into Yellowstone National Park, it had a very beneficial impact on the ecosystem and on water flows. Although the video mislabels the elk as “deer”, its message is relevant.

The influence of just a small group of wolves on river systems is as magical as the cry of the wolf itself. For a sense of being on the Yellowstone River in the Missouri-Mississippi headwaters, do look at our Yellowstone Species photo gallery.

– Posted by Jasmine Graf, NWNL Associate Director

Kenya:  No Water No Life Mara River Expedition, Maasai Mara National Reserve,  African elephant ('Loxodonta africana') crossing Mara River
Kenya: No Water No Life Mara River Expedition, Maasai Mara National Reserve, African elephant (‘Loxodonta africana’) crossing Mara River

Join us in following the SIWI Water Blog that shares our NWNL Mission to raise awareness of freshwater threats and solutions. The SIWI (Stockholm International Water Initiative) Water Blog will share collaborative projects to solve water issues around the globe.

WANTED: More Potamologists*

*Potamologists – Those who study the science of our river channels and impacts of river infrastructure (dams, levees, bridges, etc.)

(civil engineering) The systematic study of the factors affecting river channels to provide the basis for predictions of the effects of proposed engineering works on channel characteristics.

USA: Washington, Columbia River Basin, aerial view of Grand Coulee Dam
USA: Washington, Columbia River Basin, Grand Coulee Dam

– Posted by Jasmine Graf, NWNL Associate Director

What’s Your Water Footprint?

What's Your Water Footprint?

Did you know that the American lifestyle takes up 2,000 gallons of H2O a day – That’s twice the global average!

Take this short, interactive quiz at National Geographic to find out if your water usage is average or extreme.

Ethiopia: Dams threaten Indigenous communities, Omo Valley, Lake Turkana

A Cascade of Development on the Omo River by International Rivers, with photos by Alison M. Jones, 2014 (11:19).

This film outlines how Ethiopia’s new Gibe Dams will cause a 70% water-level reduction over the next 3 years – and thus drastically impact Ethiopia’s Omo River, its Lake Turkana terminus in Kenya, and ½ million residents in this Rift Valley’s Cradle of Humankind. These hydro-dams – and the new commercial agricultural plantations they will irrigate – threaten the livelihoods of local indigenous tribes and their ecosystems. The Gibe Dams will also imperil the Omo-Turkana Basin’s migrating birds, fish and crocodile populations, and the scant amount of wildlife left.

The film pleads that water flows be managed so as to maintain the sustainability of the Omo River, Lake Turkana, and today’s indigenous communities who represent 6000 years of self-sustaining flood-recession farmers and fishermen. For more information on the Omo River :
 Download the factsheet on Gibe III Dam by International Rivers.

ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS FROM NWNL:  For many millennia, the Omo’s annual 60 foot floods from the highlands’ monsoonal rains have supplied nutrient-rich silt and irrigation for the crops of the Mursi, Suri, Karo, Hamar, Nyangatom, Dassanech and other
unique indigenous cultures. In a 2008 NWNL interview…. Read the full story here.

Alarm Bells are Ringing – Let’s Wake Up


Ten days ago 82,000 tons of coal ash slurry began to spill into North Carolina’s Dan River due to a 48” broken pipe owned by Duke Energy. This is what a similar 2008 coal ash spill in Kingston TN looks like today – 6 years into a still-ongoing cleanup!

This past October, NWNL documented the cleanup site of the 2008 dike collapse at a TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority) coal-ash impoundment. The storage was for a Kingston TN Fossil Plant that provides electricity for Oak Ridge National Labs. One billion gallons of slushy coal ash spilled into the Emory River (a tributary to the Tennessee River), and onto 300 acres, covering farms, homes and waterways with up to 6 feet of sludge. Tennessee fined TVA $11.5 million for violating state clean water and solid waste disposal laws.

Such disasters typically stem from lack of comprehensive Federal Regulations on handling and disposal of coal ash, non-compliance of existing regulations, and little or no compliance supervision. To learn more about coal ash spills, and follow the Dan River cleanup and legal actions underway in North Carolina, go to

Cleaning up TVA's coal fly ash spill
Cleaning up TVA’s coal fly ash spill

For 6 years, the TVA clean up has been repairing the soil, a washed out road, a ruptured major gas line, an obstructed railroad line, a water main and power lines. TVA’s cleanup extends 6 miles upstream and 1.5 miles downstream to “bring the area back to the way it was before and even better.” TVA told NWNL in October that the covered storage of this spill is earthquake-proof down to bedrock (a unique feature for cleanups thus far) and that the river’s fish and fresh-water mussels that were affected have been recolonized.

A similar cleanup is now needed for NC’s Dan River spill.  In an effort to prevent further spills, TVA is spending $1.5 to $2 billion to convert all other TVA coal plants to dry ash storage in a ten-year plan. North Carolina’s Duke Energy now states it has been planning ash basin closures.

This month’s North Carolina spill comes on the heels of West Virginia’s chemical spill into its Elk River, which left 300,000 people with non-potable water for days. The continuance of such spills damaging our rivers, ecosystems and fresh water supplies is one more wake-up call that we need to become more responsible with our waste. Our polluting waste includes coal slurry – and nuclear waste, desalinization’s briny residue, toxic chemicals and pharmaceuticals. These pollutants dirty our rivers, kill our fish and damage our crops.

Emory River in TN, upstream of the 2008 spill
Emory River in TN, upstream of the 2008 spill

As conservation author Wallace Stegner wrote,
Something will have gone out of us as a people if we let the remaining wilderness be destroyed; if we permit the last virgin forests to be turned into comic books and plastic cigarette cases; if we drive the few remaining members of the wild species into zoos or to extinction; if we pollute the last clear air and dirty the last clean streams and push our paved roads through the last of the silence . . .” 

NWNL Interview with Ray Gardner featured in Terralingua Langscape

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NWNL’s Alison M. Jones interviewed Ray Gardner, Chairman of the five tribes of the Chinook Nation, in June 2007. The interview describes the historic ties the Chinook people have had with the Columbia River, their practices to keep the river healthy, and effects of dams and other infrastructure placed along our rivers. You can read the interview here.

Terralingua featured the interview in their Winter 2013 issue of Langscape, pages 54–57.