How Can We Embrace Water?

Wetlands along the Mississippi River

The earth has a natural balance. The prairies, lakes, wetlands, deserts, mountains and oceans and rivers all work together to provide food and habitat for living things. Unfortunately, some places have gotten out of balance. Some areas are suffering terrible drought, and others have more rain and water than they can manage.

Building cities, driveways, parking lots, and roads changes the earth’s balance. What had been surfaces that were pervious, water drained through, are changed into impervious surfaces, that do not drain.  Wetlands have gotten the shaft the past 200 years taking away the natural healing for our earth. Farmers have drained the wetlands to be used for agriculture and cities have drained and paved over these valuable places that naturally clean our water and provide homes for so much wildlife. When you build a city on a wetland you take away the natural ability to drain the area. You also destroy the dynamic life that lives there.

Houston sits on a wetland. Without any regulation parts of Houston were built on a wetlands. The concrete and asphalt took away the earth’s drainage capacity. The original wetland wants to flood, that’s what it is supposed to do, but all the hard paved surface has left only small patches of ground to drain the water and guess what? You have a flooded area.

How can Houston embrace their water? I hope that as Houston rebuilds from Hurricane Harvey they will work to maximize pervious areas, areas that drain, and limit the concrete and asphalt. It is impossible to plan for a 50 inch rain, but with some good science and skilled planning, some houses and many lives can be saved.  Regulation and good minds are needed instead of a “Do what you want” attitude.  I hope the people of Houston will try!   It is so wasteful and expensive not to try to change the way they do things.

Areas need to be created that capture the water so it drains into the earth not into the rivers and streams. Run-off creates polluted water.  The earth naturally cleans the water as it is absorbed by the earth.  I hope Houston is willing to replace some concrete with renewed wetlands and rain gardens that will keep such destruction from happening again! Homeowners could be required to install pervious or permeable driveways or gardens that absorb water, or some area on their property that absorbs a percentage of water. See permeable driveways for ideas.

I heard one Houston homeowner on the radio, his house had flooded 3 times in the past 5 years.  It is insane to keep doing the same thing over and over and expect a different result!  Maybe we can all learn something from New Orleans. See below.

After fighting water New Orleans is starting to embrace their water problem with a new paradigm. I hope Houston can learn from them. Read about it at New Orleans.

Also, Mayors along the Mississippi River are embracing wetlands to improve water quality and this will help New Orleans and the Gulf of Mexico, also! Read about at wetlands.

Houston, it’s your turn!  Wetlands can soak up lots of flood water. Can you do things differently this time around? Start listening to the scientists, engineers and environmentalists.

Houston helped put a man on the moon. Houston is the leader in the medical field. It could also begin to be a smart, resilient city if it puts its mind to it. That’s all it’s got to do. Read more at Houston.

 

 

 

Scientists, other experts and federal officials say Houston’s explosive growth is largely to blame. As millions have flocked to the metropolitan area in recent decades, local officials have largely snubbed stricter building regulations, allowing developers to pave over crucial acres of prairie land that once absorbed huge amounts of rainwater. That has led to an excess of

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It’s A Beautiful World!

Find beauty everyday!

“The world around us,” she says, “we take it for granted. But if we pause a moment and look around, there’s so much beauty right in our own backyard. I want people to see that. I want people to realize this is not an ugly world.” Ellen Lentsch

This is an amazing story of a woman who climbed up the Red Wing, Minnesota bluffs, overlooking the Mississippi River, to take a sunrise picture everyday of 2016.  Read the entire story and see her pictures here 

 

My tribute to a strong woman who accomplished an amazing goal through a year of Minnesota weather and beauty.

“My vision is to create a world where we can live in harmony with nature” Jane Goodall

A Simple Idea to Improve Water

How can you keep rainwater in your yard?

It’s raining where I live. Do you ever wonder where all that rainwater goes? Our earth naturally manages rainwater, drainage, and wetlands, and it is able to naturally purify and clean our water. Unfortunately, we created an impossible situation with our concrete urbanization and all the chemicals we use. Instead of allowing the rain to fall and soak into the ground we get it away from our houses and buildings as fast as we can sending water rushing down our storm drains into our lakes and rivers. As this water cascades over concrete and asphalt it picks up chemicals, pollutants, trash, lawn clippings and leaves which wash into our lakes, rivers, and oceans.

This is a classic example if everyone were to do just a bit to give some of this natural cleaning back to the earth, it would make a big difference in our water quality.

No one wants a wet basement, so always keep water 10 feet from your house or apartment, but beyond the 10 feet you can do many water managements things with a few flexible downspout extensions which you can purchase at hardware stores.

Below is an excellent blog from the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization on a very simple way to use some of the water running off your home, and making a big difference for water quality.

 

From the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization : “Your goal, as an eco-friendly house-dweller, is to soak as much of that water into the ground as possible. The soil will filter out the pollutants and the water will move downward until it reaches the water table. As a bonus, any plants, trees or other vegetation in the area will soak up a portion of the water to use as fuel.”  Read the entire blog here.

The Mississippi River Shed drains much of the United States

The same thing can be accomplished on agricultural land that uses buffer strips of trees and deep-rooted plants along ponds and streams.   These buffer strips absorb the chemicals!  The Gulf of Mexico thanks you! Read at Gulf

Our Urban Rivers

We all live on lakeshore. If you have a storm drain on your street it probably drains to a lake or river. The crap we are inadvertently putting in our rivers is cause for concern, and we must become more aware of the harm we are doing to our waterways and drinking water.  A new study just done by the University of Minnesota looking at water quality finds the state of our urban rivers grim. Read about it here.

The water we have on earth is the only water we will ever have.  We aren’t getting any more water, and must take care of what we have.  In this above study, homeowners that use chemicals and owned dogs were the worst offenders for polluting our water run-off. This run-off goes directly down the storm drain into lakes or streams. Once we know the source of

Growing yards without chemicals!

the pollution we get at the beginning stage to solve the problem: Don’t use chemicals on your yards, always pick up after your pets and keep your sidewalks driveways and street clean! It is more complicated, but this gives you a based-line to work from!

Urban pollution is not anywhere on the magnitude of agricultural run-off polluting the Mississippi River, but urban dwellers should take it seriously.

 

Celebrate World Water Day!

Happy World Water Day!

Lake Superior in winter

International World Water Day is held annually on March 22 as a means of focusing attention on the importance of freshwater and advocating for the sustainable management of freshwater resources.  http://www.worldwaterday.org/

The water on our planet is the only water we will ever have.  There is no getting

The Mississippi Watershed by Jon Platek

more of it!  We need to appreciate our waterways and take are of them.

On this World Water Day what sustainable practices protect our waterways?

My simple suggestions are: 1. Appreciate our water 2. Go chemical-free 3. Re-use the water that runs off your

Rain gardens and rain barrels collect run-off

house/garage/property /

Buffer strips along lakes and streams  protects water quality.

4. If you have water property, plant a buffer-strip of plants/trees to collect run-off from your yard/agricultural land.

And a video of migrating sand hill cranes on the Platte River

 

Surprising Microfibers in Fish and Food.

Jon Platek
by Jon Platek

Living in a cold winter climate, I love my fleece shirts, and have been struggling with this information for a few months trying to ignore the facts.
Studies have shown the Mississippi River is full of these microfibers. These are even smaller than microbeads.   Microbeads in soaps, make-up, and toothpaste created much worry and Congress has banned them. However, new studies are showing that microfibers are worse for us and wildlife than microbeads. Yikes, very confusing.  Read the entire article on the Mississippi River study

Information from NPR:

The innovation of synthetic fleece has allowed many outdoor enthusiasts to hike with warmth and comfort. But what many of these fleece-wearing nature lovers don’t know is that each wash of their jackets and pullovers releases thousands of microscopic plastic fibers, or microfibers, into the environment — from their favorite national park to agricultural lands to waters with fish that make it back onto our plates.
This has scientists wondering: Are we eating our sweaters’ synthetic microfibers?
Probably, says Chelsea Rochman, an ecologist and evolutionary biologist at the University of Toronto, St. George. “Microfibers seem to be one of the most common plastic debris items in animals and environmental samples,” Rochman says.
In fact, peer-reviewed studies have shown that these synthetic microfibers — a type of plastic smaller than a millimeter in length and made up of various synthetic polymers — have popped up in table salt in China, in arctic waters and in fish caught off the coast of California. These tiny fibers make up 85 percent of human debris on shorelines across the globe, according to a 2011 study. They’re basically inescapable. So it’s not unlikely they’re finding their way into the human diet, especially in seafood.” NPR

Fleece keeps us warm!
Fleece keeps us warm!

I hope that municipalities will come up with filters that will take these fibers out of our water during sewage treatment, or filters will become available to put on our washing machines, but until then we can wash our fleece less and try to consider some alternative natural clothing like wool and cotton.

  1. Wash fleece less often.
  2. Stay informed on microfibers
  3. Wear cotton and wool

https://health4earth.com/2014/07/16/what-products-contain-microbeads/

The Mighty Mississippi

Leaves pollute our waterways!
Leaves pollute our waterways!

What we do to our land, we do to our river”  John Stein MPCA Commissioner

The Mississippi River, one of the longest rivers in the world begins in Minnesota and flows south into the Gulf of Mexico. The Mississippi River cuts the United States in half, into the east and the west.  An investigative report by the Minneapolis Startribune.com. reveals the environmental threats to the Mississippi River caused by agricultural pollution  and urban run-off. Many communities use the Mississippi River as their source of drinking water.  If we are polluting this great river at the head waters what is the future for all of us, and for the wildlife that also uses this river?  What is the future of the Gulf of Mexico as the Mississippi River carries pollution during its journey south?  What will be the state of drinking water through the middle of the United States?

 We all need to do better.
We all need to do better.

The storm drains on my street drain into the Mississippi. What we do on the land affects the Mississippi River.  As a trained water steward, I am encouraging urban dwellers to manage the run-off from their yards in a smarter way.  There is a new paradigm. Instead of getting the water off our land we are looking for ways to use water run-off by redirecting our gutters and down-spouts, and building rain gardens to capture the rainfall.

Not using chemicals, sweeping our sidewalks and streets, re-directing our down-spouts, building rain gardens, picking up trash, and recycling are just a few things the urban dweller can do to help the Mississippi River.  Agricultural interests are another thing, and they need to do their part. Part 3 of this series focuses on farmers along the Chippewa River giving hope:

“Raising the amount of land planted in such perennials by just 10 percentage points — from 24 percent to 34 percent of the Chippewa watershed’s 1.3 million acres — would be enough to tip the river from polluted to clean.

Some 25 landowners now participate, and if they can prove its premise — that a farmer can make money without polluting the Chippewa — they could be a model for protecting threatened rivers all across the Midwest.” Read part 3 report here.

A fun video on building a rain garden: