Archive for the 'Other N. Amer. Watersheds' Category

On “The Rim of Fire”

October 13, 2017

Essay and Photos by NWNL Director Alison M. Jones. 

FIVE NWNL EXPEDITIONS have focused on CA’s recent multi-year drought, ended by winter 2017’s heavy snows and rains.  I returned last week to report on any impacts from that drought – only to find drought is back already! Flying into Central California, I was stunned to see how arid this region is – again!   It doesn’t take California long to dry out, especially with Climate Change consequences!  This year, the state’s 2nd wettest winter was followed by its hottest summer. That combination on top of a 5-year accumulation of dead, droughty vegetation created this horrid tinderbox that is taking lives and destroying whole towns this week.

Jones_160929_CA_7297Sign warning of wildfire, in Kaweah River Valley, California, 2016

SINCE NWNL BEGAN IN 2007, our project has noted that wildfires degrade our rivers, streams, lakes and reservoirs.  Losing forests means losing their storage and filtering of water in tree roots for later release.  Forests also shade streams, creating cool habitats for fish, especially needed for spawning salmon and trout.

BUT, WE MISSED A 2007 ARTICLE noting high CO2 emissions from wildfires.  Today, on a California hilltop above the Pacific Ocean, I’m monitoring the upcoming weekend’s Santa Ana winds and heat in the dry canyons behind me. Listening to local weather, I learned that 2 days of these CA fires emitted more CO2 than CA cars do in a year.  Sadly, this worsens the global warming that intensifies hurricanes, sea level rise, droughts, high temperatures, local storms and yes, wildfires. Global warming is a vicious cycle we’ve created.

Jones_080816_BC_4159Forest fire smoke in the Kootenay Rockies, British Columbia, 2008

CALIFORNIA’S FIRE TSUNAMI rages on as I write, destroying lives and livelihoods.  Its explosive blanket of kindling was created by 5 years of drought, as well as high temperatures and increased building on fire-prone hills. Now, the sweep of damaging urban wildfires has been lowered from treetops to rooftops.  A NOAA analysis has connected these Oct 2017 CA fires to climate change, predicting that the state’s fire risks could quadruple by mid-century if CO2 emissions stay at current levels.

SINCE ARRIVING LAST WEEK, I’ve read much here in CA on how climate change and water-related consequences relate to wildfires. This year’s Whittier Fire above Lake Cachuma left its drainage slopes bare and vulnerable to massive erosion by future rains.  Soil sliding into this reservoir will degrade water quality and decrease storage capacity for Santa Barbara’s main source of water. (Santa Barbara Independent, Sept 28-Oct 5, 2017, p 12). Also at peril from ravages of fire and landslides are municipal water infrastructure and distribution systems.

Jones_140207_CA_9966Lake Cachuma reservoir at 39% capacity from 3-year drought, 2014

A MORE GLOBAL FOCUS on this topic by Mongobay expands the impacts of wildfires beyond CA.  Its weekly newsletter states that “forest degradation has turned the Amazon from carbon sink to carbon source; while globally, humanity’s carbon emissions are worsening drought and fires. Brazil’s rapid Amazon development deepens the problem. Researchers warn of mega-fires that could be coming, unless trends are reversed.”

TODAY, INDIVIDUALLY WE CAN ONLY HOPE for the best for Californians and their dramatically beautiful state.  NWNL will keep raising awareness of the nexus of water-related issues, climate change and wildfires.  Meanwhile, it’s time to reduce our individual CO2 footprints. We can offset our role in CO2 emissions by supporting climate-change research groups like TerraPass. For the record, all NWNL expedition travel and in-office energy consumption have been offset since we began in 2007.

Jones_140207_CA_9707Dry stream bed of the Santa Ynez River, California, 2014

TOMORROW, IT’S TIME TO DEMAND a much deeper commitment from our government to use every effort possible to stop wildfires, sea level rise, deadly heat waves, Category 5 hurricanes….  It’s simple, if we’ll look ahead, rather than gaze at today’s profit margins.  Let’s not find ourselves mourning that we’ve stolen our youth’s future. Promoting ignorance with a myopic focus on today’s profits for a few will curse the future of all of us, even more than it has this month in Houston, Florida’’s Keys, The U. S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and now California.

Jones_150824_CA_6365Santa Ynez River, low stream bed due to 3-year drought, 2015

 

All photos © Alison M. Jones.

Show Them the River

October 10, 2017

Essay and Photos by Josephine Purdy

NWNL Editor’s Note: Oh, to be a college student spending a summer in watershed conservation! We are publishing this commentary so this student’s clear-eyed vision and sense of purpose can inspire other students to leave IPhones behind in order to splash across streams and learn the joys of conservation from soggy elders.

Per John Ruskey, founder of The Mighty Quapaws youth program on the Mississippi River and NWNL Partner: The river is made happier with the undivided courage, curiosity, and playfulness of kids. 

 

Nearing the end of my bachelor degree, I was desperately searching for a summer job in my field. I first heard “Show them the river” during an internship interview with the Pomperaug River Watershed Coalition.   Nervously answering and asking questions through my interview, I brushed past this simple phrase. It would take me an entire summer to truly appreciate the importance and simplicity of bringing people to the river.

During my interview with this Woodbury CT watershed coalition, I learned the tools I would use included scientific research, public outreach and coalition building. I eagerly accepted their Dr. Marc J. Taylor Summer Internship, created in honor of the co-founder of this small non-profit that protects and preserves the Pomperaug River Basin. “Show them the river,” was Dr. Taylor’s mantra.

PomperaugRiv_HollowPark_10506942_HOBOLocation4

On the first day, they almost literally threw me into the job. My supervisor taught me how to place thermal monitoring probes at various points in the river. I was to record water temperatures every hour from June until mid-October. I donned a pair of waders and slipped my way through various streams and rivers to properly place our probes. Being out on the river made me remember the childhood joys of jumping from rock to rock across a river; catching crayfish; and simply being in the water. I regained my appreciation of Connecticut rivers and couldn’t have hoped for a better ‘first day on a new job.’

EastSpringBrk_NonnewaugRd_10354194_DownstreamSite3

One of my favorite projects was helping organize and co-lead free hikes along the river and in the watershed. We led scenic walks, talking about the ecological and cultural history of the river, current issues of pollution and river use, and environmental lifestyle changes that anyone could make.

I found great purpose and joy in answering questions. I asked my own questions to those more knowledgeable and saw people leave with a new understanding and appreciation of their watershed. I began to realize that the core purpose of these hikes was to “show people the river.”

river 1

I’ve had a month to reflect on my internship with this small ‘grassroots’ non-profit. I realize I’ve learned a number of important lessons that I think will be useful in my career. I’ve been taught these lessons before; but they took on a new meaning and importance after seeing them in action.

  1. Money is important. Selling an organization to donors and sponsors is a huge and unavoidable part of the nonprofit world. While it can be discouraging when a majority of your time and energy has to go towards finding funds instead of accomplishing the goals of the nonprofit, it’s necessary and can be enjoyable, even if it’s not my strength.
  2. People can tell when you really believe in a cause. Passion and knowledge are infectious, and they are the driving force behind getting things done. Effectively communicating the importance of your work inspires others.
  3. Connecting with people makes a difference. I saw strong personal relationships and mutual respect get more things done this summer than anything else.
  4. Nothing compares to simply letting people experience the river, lake or forest if your goal is to foster appreciation.

Small nonprofits are born when communities care. They become successful when communities understand the importance and experience the joy of protecting and conserving their own natural resources.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Josephine Purdy, now 20, grew up in Bridgewater CT, with a hiatus in Kodaikanal, India. She currently resides in Montreal, Canada. Her lifelong love for the outdoors came after the family TV met an untimely fate during her early, formative years. She will enter her final year at McGill University September, 2017, to study environmental biology with a major focus in wildlife biology and a minor in field studies. Her recent summers, before the one described above, have been spent working on an organic vegetable farm.

In January, 2018, Josephine will depart on a field semester to Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. Once she runs out of funds for her travels, she hopes to start a career that blends environmental sciences, sustainable development and conservation. Graduate studies are most certainly somewhere in her future. Her favorite activities include catching insects, exploring new places, making curries, and camping – especially with friends.

 

All photos © Josephine Purdy.

Glaciers: A Photo Essay

September 19, 2017

Edit (9/27/17): Since publishing this blog, the Washington Post reported the calving (or splitting) of a key Antarctic glacier, the Pine Island Glacier.  The article states, “the single glacier alone contains 1.7 feet of potential global sea level rise and is thought to be in a process of unstable, ongoing retreat.”  To learn more about how climate change contributed to this calving, and what the affects will be, read the article here.

 

“The alarming rate of glacial shrinkage worldwide threatens our current way of life, from biodiversity to tourism, hydropower to clean water supply.” (climatenewsnetwork.net)

During and in between NWNL’s dozens of expeditions to its six case-study watersheds, we have explored the value and current condition of glaciers on three continents, since they are a critical source of freshwater.  NWNL visited the Columbia Icefields of Alberta, Canada in 2007; Argentine glaciers in 2003 and 2005; and Rebman Glacier on the summit of Tanzania’s Mt Kilimanjaro in 2003.   We have witnessed the effect of climate change on glaciers. The melting of glaciers will affect  all forms of water resources for human and wildlife communities.  Just as upstream nutrients and pollutants travel downstream, “the loss of mountain ice creates problems for the people who live downstream.” Glacial loss must be thought of as just as important in the climate-change discussion as flooding and drought have become.

 

Jones_030809_TZ_0745Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro via the Machame Route. Tanzania, East Africa. (2003)

 

Jones_050402_ARG_0155Hole in ice of Lake Viedma Glacier in South Patagonia’s Glacier National Park, Argentina. (2005)

 

Jones_070609_ALB_2357Sign marking the former edge of the glacier. Columbia Icefields, Alberta, Canada. (2007)

 

ARG SC LVgla 059DA.tifLake Viedma Glacier at Glaciers National Park in Southern Patagonia, Argentina. (2005)

 

Canada: Alberta, Columbia Icefields Center Bus Tour, Athabasca GlacierAthabasca Glacier in Columbia Icefields. Alberta, Canada. (2007)

 

ARG SC Azul 004DA.tifGlacier melting and pouring into Blue Lake in the Andes Mountains. Southern Patagonia, Argentina. (2005)

 

Posted by Sarah Kearns, NWNL Project Manager.

All photos © Alison M. Jones.

 

LNG Threat to Hudson and Raritan River Estuaries

November 3, 2015
LNG pipeline to cross the western Lower NY Bay, which is the Raritan Bay

LNG pipeline to cross western Lower NY Bay’s Raritan Bay

USA: Fishing in Raritan Bay off Sandy Hook right above proposed route for the LNG pipeline

Raritan Bay off Sandy Hook over proposed LNG pipeline route

NY/NJ Baykeeper is a strong voice fighting an LNG terminal (see definition below) that would threaten the biodiversity and water quality of the Hudson and Raritan River Estuary, one of the largest ports in the world. LNG usage, which furthers greenhouse gas emissions, is also a concern.

Dolphins swimming this summer just outside the Raritan Bay

Dolphins swimming this summer just outside the Raritan Bay

WHAT is Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG)?

Liquefied Natural Gas is natural gas that has been super-chilled to minus 260 degrees, turning it into a liquid that is 1/600th the original volume of gas. It is clear, colorless, odorless, and extremely volatile. This gas is compacted so large volumes can be shipped overseas. LNG should not be confused with gasoline or compressed natural gas.

LNG is Expensive. The intensive energy use required to liquefy natural gas and shipping costs makes LNG up to three times more expensive than domestic natural gas.

LNG is Dirty. It results in up to 40% more greenhouse gas emissions than domestic natural gas due to a life cycle that requires super-cooling, transporting overseas in giant tankers, and heating back to gaseous form.

WHAT is Port Ambrose?
As proposed by Liberty Natural Gas (confusingly also called “LNG”),  “Port Ambrose” would be an offshore port for importing or exporting LNG to or from the coasts of New York and New Jersey. This port would allow two LNG vessels (which are as long as the World Trade Center Tower is tall) to directly connect to the region’s natural gas system, with a capacity that could be expanded.

Read more from the “Port Ambrose Fact Sheet: A Proposed Offshore Liquefied Natural Gas Facility”

PROTECT THIS ESTUARY and OUR OCEAN by supporting “The New Jersey/New York Clean Ocean Zone Act,” which is bi-partisan, bi-state legislation to permanently protect the waters off the NY/NJ coast from polluting activities and facilities, such as LNG ports.

USA: NY/NJ Baykeeper  headed downstream towards Middlesex County Landfill

NY/NJ Baykeeper , on the Raritan River, is actively fighting this Port Ambrose LNG proposal

An Educational Resource For Teachers: Exploring the New York New Jersey Harbor Estuary Region

Summer Saturday on the Hudson

July 8, 2015
USA: New York, Adirondacks State Park,  source of the Hudson River

USA: New York, Adirondacks State Park, source of the Hudson River

Following Rivers with Alison M. Jones

Artist Talk on Saturday 7/11 from 6-7:30pm
Join me as I share the inspiration and creative process behind photographs taken while on expedition in Africa and North America for No Water No Life ®.

Following Rivers, curated by Jasmine Graf, is a compelling collection of giclee photographs grouped together with informational captioning that illustrates that what we do in our communities impacts the availability, quality and usage of our freshwater resources.
Photography by Alison M. Jones on view @ Beacon Institute for Rivers & Estuaries
Through October 3, 2015 at 199 Main Street in Beacon, NY.
(845) 838-1600

Part of Beacon’s “Second Saturday,” a city-wide celebration of free arts + culture events.

Oysters for the Raritan and Hudson Bays

May 6, 2014

oysters

NWNL focuses on solutions to watershed degradation as much as it does on watershed threats. This spring, NWNL guest writer Carly Shields is investigating an exciting innovative approach to reducing pollution and stabilizing shorelines in the New Jersey-New York Raritan and Hudson Bays. Her first report begins:

“Oysters are more than something you’re served at a restaurant with Tabasco or Worcestershire sauce and a glass of white wine. Oysters are actually a keystone species in North America – and especially in areas like the New York Harbor. In two watersheds that were once the main source for the oyster business, concerned scientists and stewards are now trying to re-seed, and eventually re-harvest, a billion oysters in the waters of New York City.  New York Harbor School students are making it possible for these pollution-filtering mollusks to make a comeback.

Jones_050323_ARG_0021

The marine-science focus of the high school on Governors Island is teaching its own students and middle school students in all five boroughs about the importance of oysters in their local waters and how to be the caretakers for these shellfish. This public high school is spawning oyster larvae:  something not done by any other school in the state of New York or anywhere – outside of California.

With the help of NYC students, the school has already grown seven million oysters, which are now back in the New York Harbor. Aquaculture teachers from the school are helping students take New York harbor water, and then spiking the water temperatures. This allows the larvae to think it’s time to spawn. The larvae then metamorphose into full-sized adult oysters.“

Jones_120429_NY_1743

Further investigations and interviews by Carly Shields for NWNL will explain the ecological importance of re-establishing oyster beds to improve water quality and strengthen shorelines. The latter is increasingly necessary due to wave erosion and higher water levels from severe storms like Sandy and further climate disruption.

Protect Our Water Resources

April 30, 2014

 

NYC SAFE Disposal Events in Spring 2014 (held rain or shine):

Sun, May 4 – Brooklyn, McCarren Park

Sat, May 10 – Bronx, Orchard Beach Parking Lot

Sun, May 11 – Manhattan, Union Square, North Plaza

Sat, May 17 – Staten Island, Midland Beach Parking Lot

For more info – http://www.nyc.gov/html/nycwasteless/html/events/bwprr_safe.shtml

https://www.facebook.com/NYCRecycles

https://twitter.com/nycrecycles

– Posted by Jasmine Graf, NWNL Associate Director

Signs Along the Way

April 8, 2014

Here’s some of the signs we’ve come across during No Water No Life Expeditions over the years. Enjoy!

USA: Kentucky, Tennessee River Basin

USA: Kentucky, Tennessee River Basin

Kenya:  Mara River Basin, conservation sign in Mau Forest on Saosa River east of Kericho

Kenya: Mara River Basin, conservation sign in Mau Forest on Saosa River

USA: Tennessee River Basin, Chickamauga Dam owned by Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA)

USA: Tennessee River Basin, Chickamauga Dam owned by TVA

Kenya: Mara River Basin, Mulot

Kenya: Mara River Basin, Mulot

Kenya: Mara River Basin, Nairobi, pots of charcoal for sale for 30 Kenyan shillings each (50 US cents)

Kenya: Mara River Basin, Nairobi, pots of charcoal for sale for 30 Kenyan shillings each (50 US cents)

USA: Mississippi, Tennessee River Basin

USA: Mississippi, Tennessee River Basin

USA: Kentucky, Tennessee River Basin

USA: Kentucky, Tennessee River Basin

Posted in response to “A Word a Week” Challenge – Signs.

– Posted by Jasmine Graf, NWNL Associate Director

I Am RED – a must see video poem

January 31, 2014

The Colorado River —
The Most Endangered River in America 2013

I have run these canyons for six million years.

I have traveled from the Rocky Mountains to the deserts, through scorching heat, and freezing cold. 

From the land of the dinosaurs to fields of food.

I lend my hand to seven states, two countries, nine National Parks and 36 million people across an arid west.

I am not the strongest or the largest, but I am the hardest working.

People love me, my playfulness, my beauty, my power, my life.

But I don’t think I can offer any more.

I am tired, tapped and tied.

Of the hundreds of major rivers in the world, I am one of the few who no longer kisses the sea.

Battles to harness my soul have been won and lost.

Use me wisely and I will sustain you.

Use me like you have and I will break.

My name is Red.

The Grand River, Red.

The American Nile.

The Canyon Maker.

I am the Colorado River.

And I am the most endangered river in America.

—-

Directed and written by Pete McBride Productions.
Cinematography: Pete McBride, Ron Chapple, Skip Armstrong, Kontent Films.
Still Imagery: Pete McBride
Voices: Duke Beardsley, Alma del Rio.

– Posted by Jasmine Graf, NWNL Associate Director

Weekly Photo Challenge: Grand

December 11, 2013
California: Death Valley National Park, view from Zabriskie Point with tourist enjoying overlook, January.

California: Death Valley National Park, view from Zabriskie Point with tourist enjoying overlook, January.

No Water No Life’s photo pick in response to The Daily Post’s Blog –  Weekly Photo Challenge: Grand.

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