Water Conservation and Rivers

Here’s an interesting quote from “Watered Down,” an article by Ted Williams in the March-April 2009 issue of Audubon. Please note the series of which this article is a part is titled “Incite.”

The Alliance for Water Efficiency estimates that investing $10 billion in such water conservation methods as replacing leaking pipes, using runoff for irrigation, and installing efficient toilets, showers, and washing machines would boost U.S. gross domestic product by as much as $15 billion.

If true, that’s a 50% return on investment. Not to mention that it’s good to conserve water for its own sake, good for rivers, good for fisherpeople, and good for communities that need water.

The article’s main subject was the Clean Water Act and how it has been rendered ineffective in the past decade by a couple of Supreme Court decisions and executive interpretations of them. Williams uses as his example the Blackstone River near Worcester, Massachusetts, and says of it:

The Blackstone was sick in 1995, and because of increased urban runoff and inadequate sewage treatment, it’s just as sick today.

Still, the long-term recovery of this aquatic ecosystem has been astonishing.

Sounds contradictory, doesn’t it? Williams wants us to soldier on and finish the job the Clean Water Act intended to finish by 1985: no water pollution in U.S. waterways.

Rivers have come a long way since 1969, when the Cuyahoga River near Cleveland caught fire. In those days. about 2/3 of the waters in the lower 48 states were not fishable or swimmable; now, it’s closer to 1/3.

Williams’s article reminded me a bit of the laments of feminists that not everything has changed, that women haven’t attained full equality with men yet. True, yet I wouldn’t give up what we have gained.

I wanted to consider Williams’s article in more depth, but I need to study the issue more. The history of water restoration in the United States is a huge subject. I’ll return to it in the future when I’ve learned more.