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Welcome to the Sonoma County Gazette ARCHIVE of PAST EDITIONS. Our NEW WEBSITE is up and running, so GazExtra is serving as your path to archived articles. Thanks for being part of our Sonoma County community...stay in touch...e-mail me - VESTA

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Environmental Awareness Promotes Water Conservation

Making the connection between the health of our environment and our water supply is essential if we, as humans, are to survive in concert with the critters. Every life form is dependent upon water. If we are to thrive, they too, must thrive.

By Vesta Copestakes
Over the years I have published this newspaper I have attended countless meetings about fresh water, wastewater, air pollution, potential developments, Timber Harvest Plans, etc. I listen to government officials, scientists & biologists, politicians and environmental enthusiasts, each with their own point of view and personal agenda. I want to be compassionate toward those whose opinions differ from mine. It’s not always easy.

I am in love with life itself and every little critter, every sunny, foggy or rainy day, the rustle of wind in trees…it all thrills my heart that I am alive and can bask in the beauty that surrounds us. I would love it if everyone who is responsible for this planet felt the same way.

Just the other day I attended a meeting where we came away feeling that we had saved something precious to us…Steelhead Beach Regional Park and the waters of the Russian River. There will be no pipeline of treated wastewater coming from Santa Rosa to dump directly into our river. Sigh of relief.

But I came home to a message that Sheephouse Creek Watershed* is about to be logged…again…and the most challenging part of the two plans proposed is that with all the budget cuts in our state government, there are no longer authorities in place to oversee the analysis of these Timber Harvest Plans. These in combination with previous harvests mean that 40% of the land in this vital watershed will have been logged.

That hurts, but what’s more important is that Sheephouse is in a vital watershed area that feeds not only the town of Jenner, but creeks in this area are where biologists are working to save endangered fish. Are the people in charge of all these projects talking with each other? Does one side know what the other side is doing? We can celebrate the acquisition of Jenner Headlands as now protected land, but what about further up stream?

After 11 years, Sonoma County has published the Biological Opinion (see WCG Extra! on for previous articles on this subject) and there is a small army of biologists studying the impact of river flow, etc. on numerous fish species. These scientists are literally out in boats on the river sampling water and counting fish.

They care for two reasons. One is because the Environmental Protection Agency has mandated that several endangered fish must be saved no matter what! And the other is because 600,000 people depend upon the water supply that works its way down the Russian River Watershed to the sea. The very water these fish depend upon for life.

When the Sonoma County Water Agency tells people they need to conserve water, they think about their lovely green lawns and how much money they have invested in landscaping. They think about their cars that need to be shiny and clean. They think about nice long, hot showers, clean laundry, etc. Fish just aren’t part of the equation to these water users.

But they are! Fish, rivers, trees, deer, birds, the very clouds in the sky…every miniscule aspect of life on planet earth depends upon water. So these biologists are out there trying to save endangered fish at the same time they are trying to preserve water for our cities and towns who depend upon this watershed when they turn on their faucets.

How do we get water users to CARE about the land, the fish, the birds and trees?

Fiction writers know that the number one rule for getting readers involved in their stories is to make the reader CARE about the characters in the story. The same goes for movies. You have to love them, hate them, feel sorry for them, relate to them, etc. etc. People are easy subjects to engage in emotionally. WE are people. We relate to other’s experiences. Been there, done that…know what that feels like.

How do we get people to see the connection we have with critters who depend upon our water supply. How do we get water users to CARE so much that they change the way they live?
In studies on how people eat, researchers have discovered that children who visit farms, see and touch the plants that grow their vegetables and fruits, have a higher interest in eating these healthy foods. It’s the personal experience connection. Would more people be vegetarians if they spent time in feed lots and slaughter houses? Some yes, others no. There’s no universal truth on how to connect with a person’s heart.

Since so much about caring and empathy has to do with personal experience, any outreach is bound to capture at least a few hearts. School garden programs give children a sense of wonder about the origins of their food. Field trips to parks and wildlife refuges instill a sense of awe about nature. Taking a canoe out on a river or lake makes water experiences intimate.

So many times when we want to make major changes we look to our children as the source of those changes into the future. Right now the future is too far away. Our children are not the only ones who need to care. We adults need to pay attention to our connections with endangered fish and how water that flows from our faucets is the same water in which they live. Both us humans and the fish are depending upon the very same water source for our survival.

Recently the World Conservation Congress revealed that 25 percent of the planet’s mammal species and one out of eight birds are close to extinction. These are not exotic animals in remote places. They are rabbits, deer, cardinals and turtledoves. Critters that we take for granted. Those trees on the hills we see in the distance are our connection to our water supply as well as homes for living beings struggling to survive.

It’s not us OR the fish…it’s us AND the fish. The sooner we experience that connection, the better our chance for survival. Us…right now…our children into the future…and those critters on the brink of extinction.

The moment of extinction is generally considered to be
the death of the last individual of that species

A recent study reports that nearly 40 percent of freshwater fish species
in North America are in trouble.

The study, published by the American Fisheries Society,
found that 457 species might already be extinct.

* See other WCG Extra! stories on the Sheephouse Creek Watershed Timber Harvest Plans under the ENVIRONMENT Category.

AND - check our this Documentary on KRCB Television 22
on January 11th at 10:30pm

A looming crisis under our feet....
KRCB Television 22 presents Liquid Assets: The Story of Our Water Infrastructure

How many times each day do you count on there being abundant, clear water?
How would your life change if water were neither abundant nor clear?

Essential to all life on earth, water is the provenance of civilization. Throughout history, thriving cities have had in common the presence of a water infrastructure. Much of the original American infrastructure is unchanged and still in use today. There are risks associated with neglecting our buried assets. Liquid Assets focuses on the natural cycle of our water supply and addresses the health and environmental hazards that our cities face when industrial and residential districts unsustainably interface with the water cycle.

This ninety-minute documentary tells the story of essential infrastructure systems: water, wastewater, and stormwater. These systems - some in the ground for more than 150 years - provide a critical public health function and are essential for economic development and growth. Largely out of sight and out of mind, these aging systems have not been maintained, and some estimates suggest this is the single largest public works endeavor in our nation's history. Exploring the history, engineering challenges, and political and economic realities in urban and rural locations, the documentary provides an understanding of the hidden assets that support our way of life.

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