Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Watershed Moment

It is time we paid attention to that which sustains us.
-Valerie Gremillion

Water. Covering more than 70% of our planet surface, water is fundamental to sustaining life on planet earth. Indeed, with such a composition "Planet Earth" is a bit of a misnomer, and might better be called "Planet Water".

Graphic: www.enviroblog.org

As surfers, we enjoy a relationship to water few (humans) are lucky enough to experience. The ocean is our playground and our sanctuary providing a dynamic venue which tires our bodies yet restores our well being and sense of peace.

Few systems in nature take without providing something in return. In fact, perhaps the only species to take resources at a rate far in excess of the rate of return is Homo sapiens (thats you and me, kid). So today, in honor of Earth Day, I encourage you to consider what you can do to help give back to the ocean, and look toward how we can begin to restore that which restores us.

A good place to start is at the top, literally, all the way to the top of your local mountains or hills. Imagine yourself standing on this mountain or hill top (or better yet go climb up there) and looking down toward your favorite break. Likely everything in front of you is in your watershed.

Graphic: www.conservation-ontario.on.ca

Simply put, a watershed encompasses all the land surface that collects and drains water down to a single exit point, generally a river which terminates at the ocean. Watersheds can be very small and local in nature, or massive and regional, like the Mississippi watershed which drains 41% of the lower 48 states into the Gulf of Mexico. However, regardless of their size watersheds have a profound effect on the well being of the ocean.


As mentioned above, watersheds collect and drain entire basins of water to the ocean. The overall condition of the basin will determine the condition of the water as it flows into the ocean. In other words, a highly disturbed and polluted watershed will yield polluted waters into our oceans.

Listed below are a few things we can all do to help foster the health, and sustainability to our local watersheds. After all " the water cycle and the life cycle are one." -Jacques Cousteau.

1. What watershed do you live in? Do you know? If not, find out. You can't help what you don't understand.

2. Buy organic. Harmful pesticides and nutrient rich fertilizers easily find their way into our rivers and lakes and eventually into our oceans. Consider as an example the Mississippi watershed cited above which drains the majority of our nations farms lands. Waters full of nutrient rich fertilizers contributes to massive algal blooms. These blooms in turn create an oxygen poor "dead zone" the size of New Jersey within the Gulf of Mexico each summer. By purchasing organically grown crops, you help reduce the influx of these harmful chemicals into our groundwater and oceans.

3. Stop run-off. Impervious surfaces like cement and asphalt prevent water from sinking into the ground and recharging ground water. Meandering streams and still wetlands serve as water traps, acting as natural filters and help recharge groundwater. We must stop channelizing streams and filling in wetlands and restore those which we have altered. Furthermore, we need to look toward employing pervious paving systems as impervious surfaces not only rob our groundwater basins but can result in higher velocity sheet flow of water which can lead to very destructive flooding, and erosion.

4. Storm drain pollution. By now most of us know that our storm drains flow directly to our creeks, rivers and oceans. No dumping, period!

5. Avoid toxic household cleaners. Many household cleaning products contain toxic chlorine and other chemicals which are difficult or impossible to remove at the local wastewater treatment facility. Baking soda, lemon juice, vinegar, and water are all excellent solvents.

6. Never flush unused prescriptions or medications down the toilet or sink. Many of these drugs find their way into or oceans and have resulted in endocrine disruption within many marine organisms.

7. Use native landscaping. During the dry season over 50% of the potable water used by the average Californian home is for outdoor use. Native plants are better suited to the local environment and require less water and pesticides to remain healthy and vigorous.

8. Reduce household water use. Every gallon of water saved by taking a shorter shower or upgrading to water efficient appliances is one less gallon of water that is extracted (using petroleum driven pumps) from our diminishing groundwater supply.

9. Use your voice. Get involved in your community and help shape policy to keep your watershed and in turn your water supply healthy and sustainable.


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