As we celebrate World Water Day it is important to recognize the vital role clean water plays in the functioning of the Earth’s ecosystems and to our economy. The theme of this year’s World Water Day is “Water and Jobs,” and never has that focus been more critical.
Our waterways are facing more threats than ever before and the problems of water scarcity and pollution seem to touch every corner of the globe. By the middle of next century, it is predicted that over 40% of the world population – 3.9 billion people – could be living in areas under severe water stress as climate change adds to the pressure from economic and population growth.
Water pollution threatens drinking water resources, tourism dollars and commerce and is a major contributor to economic water scarcity. Economic water scarcity is the result of a lack of investment in water infrastructure and is impacted by a population’s lack of monetary means to utilize an adequate source of water. The tragedy that unfolded in Flint, Michigan is emblematic of just how much this type of crisis can cost a community, with economic damages alone predicted to exceed $10 million.
An effective way to give our waterways a voice is the presence of vigilant advocates focused on clean water issues to “watchdog” our communities’ precious water resources. Today there are currently 934 advocates employed by 277 Waterkeeper organizations worldwide working to protect 2.3 million square miles of waterways so that people have clean water to support a vibrant and healthy community. Save The River as the Upper St. Lawrence Riverkeeper is proud to be one of them.
On the St. Lawrence River, Save The River is fighting for a modern water levels management plan that puts ecosystem health on equal footing with shipping, hydropower production and flood protection to replace the more than fifty-year-old regime that has lead to the loss of 64,000 acres of wetlands, steep declines in the populations of indigenous species and threatens the tourism-based economies of communities along its banks.
For almost two decades Save The River has been part of a robust multi-national collaboration working to bring a modern plan to the management of the River. After a $20 million binational study and extensive public comment and consultation with government at all levels and other stakeholders, the International Joint Commission (IJC) referred “Plan 2014” to the U.S. and Canadian federal governments.
Plan 2014 is based on science, developed since the River was first dammed, showing the benefits of healthy, intact wetlands – including improved water quality, stronger fisheries, increased biodiversity, and erosion control. When adopted, it will begin the restoration of 64,000 acres of wetlands, increase populations of key indigenous species, and increase the resilience of hundreds of miles of shoreline in the U.S. and Canada. Plan 2014 is also a net economic winner, providing millions annually in increased economic benefits for the Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River region as well as increased hunting, fishing, and wildlife viewing opportunities worth as much as $9.1 million annually to New York’s economy.
This World Water Day it is time for our federal governments – Canadian and U.S. – to accept Plan 2014 as it was referred and begin restoration of our River and the communities that depend on it for a sustainable future.