A Blue View: Clean Water Starts on Land

by John Racanelli, Chief Executive Officer

Published July 17, 2013

A Blue View is a weekly perspective on the life aquatic, hosted by National Aquarium CEO John Racanelli.

From the smallest plants and animals invisible to the human eye to entire ecosystems, every living thing depends on and is intricately linked by water.

Tune in to 88.1 WYPR every Tuesday at 5:45 p.m. as John brings to the surface important issues and fascinating discoveries making waves in the world today.

July 17, 2013: Clean Water Starts on Land

Click here to listen to John and Halle Van der Gaag from Blue Water Baltimore discuss how we can improve the health of Baltimore's water supply.

It’s not just about what we can do in the water that’s important. Clean water starts on land. The fact is, people in the community can make a major difference for the health of the water supply.

Below is the transcript from John's interview with the executive director of Blue Water Baltimore, Halle Van Der Gaag:

John: What are some common misconceptions people might have about their relationship to the Bay?

Halle: In Baltimore because we're in such an urban area, it's easy to forget that we're connected to the Chesapeake Bay. The Inner Harbor is actually the northwest branch of the Patapsco River. Unfortunately, the Patapsco is one of the dirtiest rivers heading into the Cheaspeake Bay, consistently rated at a D-/F. Streams like the Jones Falls, Gwens Falls and Herring Run, where people  play and walk their dogs, also feed right into the Patapsco River.

John: Give me some examples of things that can be done in a community that can help make a difference to water quality.

Halle: Everyone can make a difference to improve water quality. We do some really simple things that are a lot of fun. Get out and plant a tree with organizations like Blue Water, the Aquarium, or Parks and People Foundation. Believe it or not, trees really are the answer. They help not only with water quality, but they also help improve air quality and provide shade and heating and cooling benefits. We call it the multiplier effect. Baltimore has only 23 percent tree canopy, so we have a long way to go to have a greener, more vibrant city.

John: We have a great chance to green our environment here. What other projects does Blue Water Baltimore encourage communities to embrace?

Halle: A lot of things we encourage folks to do is  think about pavement and hard surfaces in their communities. In your backyard, where you work or where you worship, do you need all of that pavement, or are there opportunities to use things like permeable pavement? If parking lots aren't used, could we create a bioretention or a filter system where you'd actually be treating and managing rainwater on those impervious surfaces? Sometimes people can simply do things like redirect their downspout or install conservation landscaping, which requires less maintenance, less water and less mowing.

John: Prettier and easier. You can't beat that. What do you find is the most effective way to get people in the community involved?

Halle: We find that a lot of folks, once they get information about this and they understand the problems, they're really willing to dig in and take action. We spend a lot of time at community meetings and working with communities to spread the word on what they can do. We help folks raise money for projects and installation. We really people to get active, to get out on the land, and do a trash cleanup, plant a tree, identify a spot for a rain garden. Bring your friends. Bring your family.

John: So there's really something for everyone if they want to chip in.

Halle: Absolutely.

John: Where do you think is our biggest opportunity for positive change in Baltimore and the communities surrounding us?

Halle: Thinking holistically, there are opportunities that folks can be doing where they live and work and worship. We want to see that folks are seeing that everybody's part of the problem and everybody's part of the solution. We're all polluters and we all need to do our part. So whether it's paying a stormwater fee or getting active in your community, we're really encouraging people to just do a little bit more to help our environment.

John: Do our part. That seems so simple but I know it's easier said than done. Thank you so much, Halle.

Halle: Thank you for having me.

About Blue Water Baltimore Blue Water Baltimore’s mission is to restore the quality of Baltimore’s rivers, streams and harbor. From organizing trash cleanups and planting trees to monitoring streams and advocating for stronger clean water laws, Blue Water Baltimore is hard at work in communities around the state. Learn more at bluewaterbaltimore.org.

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