No Water No Life applauds Dr. Judy Auer Shaw on the publication of her new book, “The Raritan River: Our Landscape, Our Legacy.” For 8 years, NWNL has observed the power of Judy’s outreach upstream and downstream along the Raritan. Her personal passion for this river and local stewardship has brought together residents, scientists, industry and other stakeholders in a ground-breaking effort to restore the services and legacy of the Raritan River to the State of New Jersey for future generations.
About the Author: Judy serves as an Advisor for NWNL. She is a researcher at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, Rutgers University, where she also leads the Sustainable Raritan River Initiative. This initiative earned the Somerset County Regional Planning Award in 2010. In addition, Shaw has received the Elwood Jarmer Award for Environmental Leadership. Read her full bio here.
• Pollution from Industrial, Agricultural and Urban Runoff.
• Protection of Migratory Birds and Watershed Biodiversity.
• Loss of Cypress, Hardwood Forests and Wetlands.
• Effectiveness of Levees, Locks and Dams, and Floodways.
• Green Infrastructure and Sustainable Resource Management.
Louisiana shrimp boat
Mississippi River barge
Why support a No Water No Life expedition?
NWNL expeditions help raise global awareness of freshwater availability, quality and usage. For eight years, NWNL has returned with interviews, still photos and video imagery from our six case-study watersheds in North America and Africa. This documentation informs and inspires actions that will help insure… fresh water, for everyone, forever.
On the seventh day of exploring impacts of drought in California’s Central Valley, I slipped down some loose scree into a San Joaquin riverbed. Shadows of Mendota’s bridge on San Mateo Road were lengthening. That early-evening hush of the desert was overtaking the power of the sun’s heat. There was just enough light to photograph a snake-like bed of sand swallowing
the San Joaquin River.
Sierra Nevada Mountain glaciers no longer melt into the basin of California’s long-lost Corcoran Lake of 750,000 years ago. That vast inland sea spilled into the Pacific half a million years ago, but it left a rich legacy. Over the last 10,000 years glacial melt, winter rains, Sierra snow carved the San Joaquin and Sacramento Rivers and added further nutrients to one of the world’s most plentiful breadbaskets.
Those rivers flowed freely until 1919 when human engineers began redesigning California into a sprawling network of levees, aqueducts, canals, pumps, dams and reservoirs. Today, the Central Valley Project (1930) and State Water Project (1957) supplies water to 22 million Californians, irrigates 4 million acres, and provides hydro-electricity, flood control and recreation. Built in 1941, Fresno’s Friant Dam irrigates over a million acres of farmland, but it leaves 60 miles of the San Joaquin River dry.
“Picture a river running through a desert. Now picture a desert running through a river.” I read that concept two days earlier at the Delta Visitor Center. It was now in my camera’s viewfinder. Amidst a whine of mosquitos, I considered this crippled river, nature’s persistence versus man’s ingenuity, and how one balances nature’s productivity with human productivity.
Sudden splashes from behind were an alert that I’d hiked out alone from a dirt road. But then I saw telltale stripes flashing and fish thrashing, framed by willow roots in shallow water.
There were four or five – maybe even seven – each at least 18 inches long. Flipping over each other, they fled my shadow into the far end of their stagnant puddle, leaving me with only ripples to photograph. Striped bass, introduced to the California Delta in the 1800’s, are a saltwater species that seek freshwater for spawning.
Can they survive this three-year drought? It’s unlikely there’ll be further significant rain this year, so human intervention would be needed. That’s not likely, given today’s unprecedented clamoring for water by municipalities and farmers.
There are, however, signs of hope. In 2009, Friant Dam began “restoration flows,” released by water users’ negotiated agreements. In December 2013, National Marine Fisheries Service announced it might re-introduce spring Chinook salmon to the San Joaquin. Salmon thrive in big, broad rivers, but struggle in drought and heat. However, restored flows and recognition of common interests, suggest that Chinook salmon may again reach the Sierra Nevadas.
Did you know that more than 48 freshwater mussel species can be found in the Clinch Valley region?
The Clinch River flows through the southwestern tip of Virginia to join the Tennessee River which in turn joins the Ohio, a major tributary to the Mississippi. Mussels purify the water and a single mussel can filter up to 1.25 gallons per hour!
So healthy mussels = healthy rivers.
At least 15 mussel species inhabiting these waters are on the federal endangered species list. NWNL Director and Lead Photographer, Alison M. Jones, is on the river documenting restoration efforts and interviewing water stewards. More updates from the field will be posted in the following weeks.
On September 15th, stakeholders from Kenya, Tanzania and surrounding communities will come together to celebrate Mara Day to focus on the health of the Mara River. Informative activities and presentations aim to foster discussions on water quality, pollution, deforestation, drought and other environmental and social challenges facing the MRB and its sustainable development.
More than 1.1 million people live in the MRB and a wealth of flora and fauna depend on its resources. It’s no coincidence the event takes place during the famous wildebeest migration in which the perennial Mara River becomes the destination for the world’s largest mammal migration of almost 2 million wildebeest and zebra. For more information about Mara Day: http://allafrica.com/stories/201307261515.html?viewall=1
But its very critical source, The Mau Forest in Kenya, has been suffering devastation for years as industry – and local people needing wood – have cut down this forest. The forest’s retention of water during the seasons of heavy rains plays a crucial role to the entire watershed.
The Mara River, fed by waters from the Mau Forest, nurtures iconic plains species that bring lucrative tourism and jobs; commercial and subsistence farmers; fisherman; and the ecosystems of its Lake Victoria terminus.
And perhaps most important, the Mara supplies drinking water to its inhabitants and their livestock, yet it can no longer be guaranteed to be clean, healthy water.
In NWNL’s expedition covering the length of the Mara River and in our interviews with many stakeholders and stewards en route, it became clear that education is the key. Those who live in the Basin now must learn the upstream-downstream consequences of their water and forest usage, and why it is critical for tomorrow and future tomorrows to adjust their habits and practices to ensure the sustainability of livestock, flora, fauna and their own communities.