The future health of Connecticut’s water depends on the actions of every individual. No matter where we live, work, or play, we are somehow connected to a nearby river, stream, lake, pond, wetland, or shoreline. The rain that falls around us will always moves according to gravity, following a path to the nearest downhill body of water and, in Connecticut, eventually to Long Island Sound. This simple fact means that the health of Long Island Sound -- and every river and stream that flows into it -- is connected to how we live on the land. Yet, many people still think that water pollution is caused mostly by discharges from business and industry and are unaware of the unique role we play in determining the fate of our waterways.
The good news is that industrial discharges are largely under control thanks to the Clean Water Act passed in 1972. With passage of this act, we saw the number of healthy rivers across the nation (those considered clean enough for fishing and swimming) increase from just 20% in the mid-1900’s to 57% by 1994. The bad news is that just ten years later we saw that number drop slightly to 53% and by 2012, only 48% of rivers and streams were considered clean enough for fishing and swimming.
With industrial discharges under control, what is causing the decline in river health? According the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, it is polluted runoff. Runoff is the water that does not soak into the ground during a storm. Forests and meadows are excellent places for water to soak into the ground, but with a growing population these areas are giving way to more developed land (i.e. more buildings, roads, parking lots, lawns) and the volume of runoff is increasing. So is the amount polluted runoff -- water that picks up nutrients, salts, sediments, bacteria, pesticides, and other widely-used chemicals (like cleaning supplies and automotive fluids) from the landscape and carries them to nearby waterways. With fewer natural areas for water to soak into the ground and more pollutants being used in excess, nature’s cleaning systems are overloaded, causing more pollutants to end up in our waterways.
With the health of our nation’s rivers declining over the past two decades, now is the time for you to make a real and positive difference around your home to reduce polluted runoff.
Click here to read the full article as a pdf and find steps you can take. Or see the full March edition of Natural Nutmeg (we're on pages 28-29).
To find resources to help you get started with these and other River Smart practices or to learn more about how polluted runoff affects the health of our local rivers, visit www.riversmartct.org. The River Smart program will introduce you to and provide you with the tools you need to and create areas to naturally absorb and filter runoff, to reduce chemical use, and to conserve water.