One of the most iconic commercials I’ve ever seen shows a Native American in a hand-made traditional canoe paddling slowly from idylic natural surroundings into the garbage choked waterways of a big city port.
It ends with the Native American walking alongside a highway surveying what his country has become. A passerby in a car tosses a bag of garbage at his feet and he looks at the camera while the Dragnet-style voiceover says, “People start pollution. People can stop it.”
The camera closes in on a tear sliding down his face.
To me, it said clean water and that image often comes to me anytime I’m around a river of any size whether it’s the mighty Yukon in Alaska, the Skagit in Washington or the San Joaquin. And I wonder whether the river I’m looking at is getting better or worse.
Recently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released its draft report on how it plans to keep that Native American and people like me from being disgusted when we look at a waterway.
The agency calls the effort Coming Together for Clean Water. The draft outlines how the EPA hopes to accomplish goals established by the Clean Water Act, which was passed in 1972 when President Nixon was in office.
I still have a pin that says, “Nixon: Now more than ever.”
The EPA says, “We’re pleased to share this draft with you and welcome your comments.” The approach focuses around “two thematic lines: 1) healthy watersheds, and 2) sustainable communities,” the report says.
Solutions outlined include regualtion, of course, but also cooperation, partnerships and communication. It’s all our business: corporation, business, resident, farmer, fisherman.
It’s important stuff. Now more than ever.
The situation as outlined by the EPA sounds dire. “Recent surveys found that nutrient pollution, excess sedimentation, and degradation of shoreline vegetation affect upwards of 50 percent of our lakes and streams.
“In addition, recent National Water Quality Inventories have documented pathogens as a leading cause of river and stream impairments. Sources of these stressors vary regionally, but the main national sources of water degradation are: agriculture, stormwater runoff, habitat, hydrology and landscape modifications, municipal wastewater, and air deposition.”
The report says pollutants have been detected in virtually all tested stream water and streambed sediment and about three-quarters of groundwater wells.
The draft strategy will be available for comment until Sept. 17. The EPA plans to have its final strategy by late this year.