Water, considered one of the basic needs, brings no surprise that this was the topic of the PVSustain 2010 annual meeting and discussion this December.
Water in its various forms such as rivers, streams, ponds, lakes, and oceans are more than just a visual aspect of our natural landscape. Plants rely on water to grow, it is one of the most sustainable forms of travel, and our body require it to live.
Water nourishes. As part of the landscape it is part of our place-based awareness. Drought or lack tends to mean much more than no watering of lawns. In developing countries, its lack leads to illness, famine, and death.
Based on its inherent value as a basic need, it is amazing that our current system of water management gets the treatment it does, whether that means being on the budgetary back burner or dripping from unfixed faucets.
Water is a commons; something that belongs to all of us. How water ever became privatized or ‘owned’ in other ways is astonishing. Its like giving up your right to food or housing. Wait, have we done that too? But that’s another topic for another day…
One only has to look to the South-Western US where the Colorado River no longer reaches the ocean to know that poor management of this resource is a dangerous game. But we are there, playing that game. But the experts were the ones whose voices conveyed the message the most clear.
Judith Blatt of Mass Rivers Alliance brought up the idea of a revisited safe yield with the goals to 1) clarify the definition of the safe yield to include all environmental protection factors, and 2) develop stream flow criteria and goals. While she said that there are current permitting requirements for use over a certain level, there is also the challenge that that level may be too high to legitimately protect the resource.
She also suggested that the challenge that those who protect our water faces is one of education, and messaging. A clear message explaining the importance of the work would go a long way in helping to get the necessary funding. Education on conserving water for the public would also be helpful, however challenging, because in this case we are the enemy. This is one more example, to me, to remind us that force does not ever drive sustainable change.
Andrea Donlon, River Steward with the Connecticut River Watershed Council added to the conversation even further. She addressed the issues of the Connecticut River and the erosion which is exacerbated by the fluctuating levels from the Northfield basin.
One of the ideas on how to help keep the waterways healthy included a water fee which is along the same vein as the idea of a carbon tax.
While water is a personal passion of member, Joanne Sunshower, all participants left this event with a better understanding of the status of this essential life force here in the Pioneer Valley. While these conversations and discussion took only a few short hours, it was obvious that there was plenty more that was was not said due to time constraints.
I encourage anyone interested in learning more to go to the Connecticut River Watershed Council or the the Mass Rivers Alliance websites. Attendance at the PVSustain meetings is free and open to all interested parties.