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Our Water is Your Water

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The people of North America have largely been blessed with more than an ample supply of clean potable water for several centuries. We have enjoyed what most of the rest of the modern developed world considers a luxury. We take for granted drinkable tap water, water for washing cars, watering lawns, or daily bathing. This may be changing.

The percentage of potable water from the total amount of the world’s water is less than 1%. Then let’s take a look at population growth. World population was 2 billion about 1928. 3 billion around 1960. And 7.1 billion as of 2010. Projections for 2020 and beyond show even more of a substantial increase. This coupled with per capita use now is nearly 100% more than it was in 1900. This is figuring in water use in the production of the food we eat and the manufacturing of durable goods, household products, etc., etc.

On the good side, Lake Erie was considered dead as recent as 1970. However, for the last couple of decades it has supported a thriving salmon sport fishery. In my own neck of the woods is the example of Opossum Creek in Upper Adams County. Prior to the clean water act of the 1970’s, Opossum Creek was a dumping ground for residential and commercial waste and garbage. Had you told someone in the 1960’s that you were going trout fishing there downstream from Route 34 you may have been considered not in full possession of your mental facilities. Now days it is a popular trout stream for area fisherman. Neither of these examples occurred over night. It took decades of hard work on behalf of any number of dedicated individuals to make this a reality.

None of this means that our work is done though. All of us are able to help insure an ample supply of clean water for the future. This may start by monitoring the use of chemicals and fertilizers on our yards and any clubs or organizations that we belong to. Judicious use of tap water and other water resources should be considered as well. Reams of related information is available on the internet pertaining to this issue.

At Strawberry Hill Nature Preserve, many of our educational programs have to do with watershed projection. The preserve sits on the Swamp Creek and Middle Creek Watersheds. These headwaters are an integral part of a much larger system of tributaries of the Potomac River. The Potomac River is one of the major sources of water for the Chesapeake Bay. Protecting our watershed is the start of allowing a supply of clean, flowing water. The Strawberry Hill Preserve area is laced with a variety of wetlands. Vernal pools and swamp forest may be seen along our trails. Beyond their importance as part of a source of clean water is the role they play as wild life habitat. Amphibians, birds, and mammals all benefit from the watersheds existence. Protection of this watershed is a primary reason for our endeavor, along with our educational programs. Miles of trails provide access for members and the public at large. The health of this watershed is truly a barometer of what is possible when concerned folks set some worthwhile goals.

Mick Group is a Naturalist at Strawberry Hill Nature Preserve. Originally published in Gettysburg Times September 27, 2016.

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