We pray for rain to fill creeks, make pilgrimages to the Gauley every fall for dam releases, and anxiously watch dreamflows each spring trying to predict Cali snowmelt cycles. For most paddles, our worries about water amount to "where will it be so I can go paddling?" Anyone who's paddled on a heavily polluted stream after a hard rain however, has glimpsed into a life lived by billions here on Earth. More than a billion people don't have access to clean, safe drinking water, and 42,000 people a week die from unsafe water.
Even here in the US though, 40% of rivers and 46% of lakes are too polluted for fishing, swimming or aquatic life. Fortunately, small steps make a big difference. Check out this list of easy things to do around your house to help keep your local rivers clean:
1. Correctly dispose of hazardous household products. Keep paints, used oil, cleaning solvents, polishes, pool chemicals, insecticides, and other hazardous household chemicals out of drains, sinks, and toilets.
2. Use nontoxic household products whenever possible. Discarding toxic products correctly is important, but not buying them in the first place is better.
3. Recycle and dispose of all trash properly. Never flush non-degradable products -- such as disposable diapers or plastic tampon applicators -- down the toilet. They can damage the sewage treatment process and end up littering beaches and waters.
4. Conserve water. Use the most efficient plumbing fixtures. A whopping 73 percent of the water you use in your home is either flushed down the toilet or washed down the shower drain. Toilet dams or bricks placed in your toilet tank can save four gallons of water per flush, or up to 13,000 gallons a year for the average family of four. Low-flow toilets and showerheads also yield major water savings. Repair drips promptly; a dripping faucet can waste 20 gallons a day, a leaking toilet 200 gallons. Sweep driveways and sidewalks instead of hosing them down.
And just as important--get outdoors, go paddling and appreciate the clean rivers in your area. Better yet, teach someone to paddle and create a new river steward.