Every person can do something to help - including you!
By: Brittany Steff
Without water, there’d be no us. Our bodies are made up of almost 75 percent water. We depend on water to grow food, to keep us clean, and to cool us down. Water hydrates us and keeps us alive and healthy.
If you live in the DC area, most of the water in your sinks, showers, and hoses comes from the Potomac River and the streams that flow to it. The river starts in West Virginia, winds across Maryland and Virginia, and finally flows to the Chesapeake Bay. Our drinking water has come from the Potomac for 150 years! Since we depend on rivers for safe drinking water, we need to make sure that the Potomac River, Chesapeake Bay, and all the water around us is clean and protected. And not just the rivers themselves, the land around them, too!
The Nature Conservancy protects rivers and streams and the land that drains to them, but it’s a big job! Every person can do something to help—including you. Write a letter to KidsPost and The Nature Conservancy explaining what you are doing to help keep your water clean, and how you know that your actions are helping. Four winning letter writers will get to go hiking at the Potomac Gorge just outside Washington, DC and enjoy a picnic lunch with a Nature Conservancy scientist who studies and protects water. One grand-prize winner will get a special behind-the-scenes tour at the National Aquarium, Baltimore in celebration of the role water plays in keeping people and animals healthy. Letters are due to KidsPost Sept. 10.
UPDATE: KidsPost received nearly 200 entries from kids in Maryland, Virginia, and DC. “We were so inspired by the many entries that included creative and committed suggestions,” said Stephanie Flack, Potomac River project director for the Nature Conservancy. “We were impressed by the kids’ terrific ideas of what they, their families, and their friends can do to keep water clean.” Read more from the four finalists here.
Here are some ideas to help get you started:
- Plant trees. Trees’ root systems reach down in to the ground, and those roots act like filters to keep bad things - like sediment and pollution - out of lakes and rivers.
- If your parents fertilize your lawn, check the weather for them. If it’s going to rain the next day, hold off! Rain washes fertilizers and other toxic chemicals into the sewer, and we don’t want them in our water!
- Speaking of yard work: if you water your lawn and garden, be sure to do it early in the morning when the sun is coming up or when the sun is going down. That way, less water evaporates in the sunlight, so it is not wasted.
- If you can, plant native plants and flowers in your garden – types that are from this region -- so that they don’t need to be watered as much and you save valuable water. A local nursery can tell you what is native to our region.
- If it’s safe, pick up trash in your neighborhood to make sure it doesn’t end up washed into sewers, rivers, pipes, or ponds.
- When it rains, look at how the water runs off your school’s roof. Does it flow right to the street, like a waterfall, or does it seep into the ground? If it goes straight to the sewer, talk to your school about putting up rain barrels to catch this water and let it be reused in watering gardens. When water rushes straight to the sewers, it brings with it all sorts of bad pollution.
- If there’s an area near your school or house that’s just bare mud, plant some plants there! Their roots will help filter out bad sediments and pollutants.
- Don’t pour chemicals down drains or flush medicines to get rid of them. Read the labels of cleaning supplies and medicine to find out how to get rid of anything extra.
- Encourage your parents to buy soaps, detergents, shampoos, and other products that are fragrance free and not anti-bacterial. These everyday household products end up going down the drain and have chemicals that can affect the health of rivers and streams.
- While it’s fun to wash the car in your driveway, it actually uses more water than a car wash and can pollute sewers and rivers with bad chemicals. Encourage your parents to take the car through a carwash instead.
- The same goes for you and for your pets! Wash pets (and yourself) inside in showers and tubs rather than risk sending soaps and other chemicals into our water supply.
- In the winter, don’t put salt on your front steps and sidewalks. Even though it’s something we eat, lots of salt together can pollute waterways and harm wildlife. Instead, shovel pathways as much as possible, and scatter sand.
- Help make sure we all have enough water by taking shorter showers, turning off the tap when you brush your teeth, filling up your dishwasher entirely before running it, helping your parents fix dripping sinks and taps, and not using water when you don’t need it.
- If you have to run an errand with your parents, and you’re going somewhere close by, ask to walk or ride your bike! Lots of pollution that ends up in our water comes from cars.
- Get your family and friends to go outside and play, too! The more they enjoy the outdoors, and see how important it is, the more likely they’ll be to help!
The Nature Conservancy protects clean drinking water across the Potomac watershed in Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Washington, DC. Using novel - often innovative - techniques, we’re working to ensure clean water for our region for at least another 150 years, and generations beyond. Learn more at www.nature.org/DCwater150
November 08, 2013
About the Author
Brittany Steff is a freelance science writer, editor, and founder of Species Richness Media. She lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband, two dogs, and lots of books. She is a contributor to Nature.org.