Clean Water Could Soon Be A Scarce Resource For You

October 27th 2014

ATTN: Staff

Will Baker is the President and CEO of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the largest non-profit conservation organization dedicated solely to preserving, protecting, and restoring the Chesapeake Bay. He is also a leading environmentalist and clean water expert; under his leadership, CBF received the nation's highest environmental honor—the 1992 Presidential Medal for Environmental Excellence—in recognition of its environmental education program. Will recently spoke exclusively with attn to explain why clean water is one of the leading issues of our time. 

attn: What do people mean when they say "clean water"? How does one know if they're drinking/bathing in clean water or not?  

Clean water refers to clean, healthy creeks, streams, rivers, and bays. You know they’re clean and healthy when you see lots of fish, shellfish, crabs, birds, and plants – that is, when you see a good diversity of life in and around them. And you know they’re not clean when you see dead fish, or very few fish, birds, and plants. Other signs of pollution include slimy green algae coating the surface, when the water is so muddy you can’t see more than an inch or two below the surface, and when local health departments post swimming and fishing warnings. 

attn: Ok, so what will it take to keep our waterways safe for drinking, swimming, boating, fishing, etc? 

All of us must do our share to reduce pollution. Homeowners need to reduce fertilizer on their lawns, install rain barrels, and plant rain gardens, and pick up after their pets. Farmers should fence livestock out of farm streams and plant vegetated buffers along stream banks. Businesses can help by recycling and converting to renewable energy. Local governments need to modernize sewage plants and channel polluted urban/suburban runoff through  soft, green, permeable areas that absorb rain and the pollutants it carries rather than letting it run off.

 attn: Are there opponents to making sure we have clean water? What do they say?

The Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint, a combination of pollution limits and state specific plans to achieve those limits, is working. Local governments, businesses, farmers, and individuals have been making good things happen for the Chesapeake and the thousands of rivers and streams that drain into it.

Unfortunately, as our cleanup gained traction, those who profit from the status quo increasingly oppose the Blueprint. The Farm Bureau, the Fertilizer Institute, and other national agricultural lobbyists stepped in. They sued the EPA arguing that the Blueprint was just another example of EPA over-reach.

The lost on every count in federal court.  Now they are appealing to the Third Circuit and they have persuaded the Attorneys General from Florida, Kansas, Texas, Alaska, and 18 other states to join them. Their mission: stop the Bay clean up.

Why? Quoting from their brief, all of them are worried that “If this [Blueprint] is left to stand, other watersheds, including the Mississippi could be next.”

In other words, the clean-up process that is working in Chesapeake might be a blueprint for cleaning up polluted water across America. Seriously? I guess they don’t want other states to have get clean water either.

attn: Do they have a point? How urgent is this really? 

Yes, in the short term, clean water programs do come with a cost, but the long-term benefits far outweigh costs. For example, it’s been estimated that the benefits of restoring the Chesapeake Bay will be more than four times the cost. And the payback will benefit our children and grandchildren for years to come.

attn: How can people get involved with your organization?  

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation and its members, more than 200,000 strong, are the strongest and most effective voice that exists for protecting and restoring the Bay and its rivers and streams. We work at local, state, and federal levels for effective laws and regulations that will reduce pollution, restore vital natural systems like oyster reefs, forests, and wetlands, and encourage smart growth in our communities.  Check out our events calendar for information on upcoming volunteer opportunities; join the Chesapeake Bay Action Network and speak out for the Bay; or become a member