Keeping Our Waters a Paddling Paradise – Part 1

I have often noticed when I have been kayaking that the waters have not always been crystal clear. In fact many times there has been enough pollution in the water to make me very uncomfortable.

I am well aware of the fact that to keep our waters a paddling paradise there is much work that needs to be done. The responsibility of keeping our waters clean does not come down to one person, one group or one source.

The responsibility falls on all of us and as kayakers we tend to have a particular interest in the water being free of toxic pollution.

Facts about Water Pollution

One of the major contaminants of water is oil. One quart of oil is able to contaminate 250,000 gallons of water. To put that into perspective cars are responsible for dispersing fifty million gallons of oil each year from burned exhaust, oil dripping on roadways, as well as illegal dumping. A lot of that oil ends up as run-off pollution into the water.

Other major sources of water pollution are:

  • Yard waste
  • Dirt
  • Pesticides

When we have heavy rainfalls or storms the excess water carries these pollutants down the drains and into our lakes, streams and oceans.

It is very easy not to think about these things as we go about our daily lives until suddenly, one day,  it smacks you in the face when you are kayaking and the smell of the water or the murkiness makes you feel semi-guilty and a little bit sick. It is the kind of thing where once you have seen it and experienced it you simply can’t ignore it. However, not to worry, there is lots that can be done to help.

Guidelines for Keeping Our Waters Clean

The first place we can start is at home. Below are some easy tips that everyone can follow:

  • Only water your yard or garden when absolutely necessary. Excessive watering is actually one of the main activities that can lead to storm water pollution.
  • Eliminate toxic pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers in your garden and on your yard. Yes they do help in killing annoying insects and weeds, but they can also kill birds, fish, and make the water very polluted. You or your child may be swimming in the water where those chemicals end up and they can make you very sick. There are lots of nontoxic alternatives that can be researched online or at your local nursery.
  • If you absolutely have to use some type of chemical on your yard or in your garden do not use it before a rain storm. The storm will wash the chemicals into the drains and then into your waterways poisoning every living thing along its way.
  • Compost your yard trimmings as they can clog up storm drains.  Once the waste reaches the ocean it decays and absorbs oxygen which the fish need to survive. Check with your community as usually there is some type of program that will pick up at certain times yard waste for composting.
  • Clean up after your pets. I actually didn’t realize this before but animal feces that get washed into storm drains are responsible for a very high level of harmful bacteria in the water. Again this is something that is easy to not think about but is really important to not ignore.

Over the next day or two we will continue to look at the issue of keeping our water clean and simple things that we can all do to be more conscious, aware and proactive. In the next article we’ll look at car care, shopping and disposal.

Update: Part 2 of this article is now finished and can be viewed here: Keeping Our Waters a Paddling Paradise – Part 2

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