Cleaning Water for Our Alma Mater

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Tags: Local Environmental Issues

Water is the foundation for prosperous communities, and terrifyingly, dirty water is our world’s biggest health risk. Dirty water leads to three key issues: contaminated drinking water, habitat degeneration, and beach closure. The United States Environmental Protection Agency Clean Water Act of 1972 establishes structure for regulating discharges of pollutants and quality standards for waters in our country. The EPA implements pollution control programs, sets water quality standards for contaminants in surface water, and controls discharges. The Office of Water ensures drinking water is safe and restores and maintains oceans, watersheds, and their aquatic systems. Defending the Clean Water Act and upholding your responsibility to conserve will protect our health, support economic and recreational activities, and provide a safe habitat for marine organisms, plants, and wildlife.

Water sustains all life, so it is imperative for us to value our water supply. First, we must control the climate change to avoid overdrawn and polluted lakes and rivers, like our beloved Tennessee River. The continuing melting of glaciers worldwide has great potential to drown large regions of land that house millions of people. Second, as our atmosphere warms, so does the water. The steep rise in water temperature depletes oxygen supply and interrupts nutrient distribution. The water then lacks basic protection and becomes more vulnerable to pollution from factory farms, industrial plants, and fracking. “Lagoons” on industrial farms store and dispose of animal waste. But when they leak, they release antibiotic residue and harmful bacteria. If you are not directly consuming these pollutants through your drinking water, then you are ingesting them through the food you consume that either swam in or drank the contaminated water. Waste is an affordable and efficient fertilizer that seeps into our soil and into our ecosystem. Third, toxic chemicals, dirt, trash, and disease-carrying organisms run off of roofs and roads and pollute our water. The temperature fluctuation, dissolved oxygen, irregular pH levels, erosion, sedimentation, runoff, and decayed organic material severely threaten our quality of life and public health.

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Have you ever been to the beach? Or how about a Tennessee football game? Those are two of my favorite things!

There is no national obligation for protecting the public from unsafe swimming water. However, testing beach water for bacteria levels that exceed health standards varies depending on the beach and state. How disappointing will it be the day your family beach trip or the spring break trip, where the Vols take over Panama City Beach, gets cancelled due to the beach closing based on the health advisory? Also, the water will be unable to support the admirable marine life that contributes so greatly to the environment.  In fact, almost half of the endangered species are animals that eat water-dependant plants or live in the water. As I reminisce on my beach memories of chasing the minnows, catching jellyfish, hunting for Starfish and Hermit Crabs, and holding a sea turtle, I could not imagine stripping these experiences away from kids in future generations! If saving the beaches isn’t enough, your volunteer pride should be motivation! Neyland Stadium is one of three stadiums that can be accessed by both land and water! Our Vol Navy, consisting of around 200 boats, “dockgate” on game day. In order to maintain the uniquely Volunteer tradition of celebrating on the water, we must protect the iconic Tennessee River.

Water protecting strategies can eliminate these catastrophes! You can give life by conserving water. Practice and promote simplistic water efficient strategies like shorter showers, turning the water off when you brush your teeth, and washing bigger loads of laundry. You can also do your part by defending the Clean Water Act and advocating green infrastructure that controls storm water and sewer overflows. Also, NRDC experts challenge us to prepare for water-related challenges resulting from climate change and ensuring waterways have enough water to support vibrant aquatic ecosystems by getting involved in the EPA Watershed Academy.

Safeguarding all elements of public health and my admiration for aquatic creatures are the foundations for my devotion to cleaning and conserving our water. I hope I have encouraged you to avoid contaminated water for your personal health and control your water usage for enhanced water quality to benefit marine life and you. You are a Vol, rise to this call!

For more information and precautionary water quality guidelines:

http://www.fws.gov/contaminants/issues/waterquality.cfm

http://www.sustainabletable.org/267/water-quality

http://www.nrdc.org/water/

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