Water, and more specifically Clean Water is a major area of focus in Baltimore this week. Rightly so. We all understand that we rely on access to clean water for not only life itself, but our quality of life as well. The water that we drink and that makes up the natural systems that surround us is intricately linked to our health and well-being. It is this undeniable fact that is the focus of many events happening in our great city in these next few days.
The week started off with the unveiling of Baltimore’s Annual Healthy Harbor Report Card. The "report card" is an annual milestone report focused on the ultimate goal of making the harbor Fishable and Swimmable by 2020. The Baltimore Harbor was given a grade of C- in 2012, with most water quality indicators (dissolved oxygen, water clarity, nutrient levels, etc.) squarely in the C-D range. According to the monitoring data, the Baltimore Harbor only met water quality standards 40 percent of the time. Despite the less-than-stellar grades, we must realize that natural systems take time to “bounce back.” We cannot reverse centuries of abuse in the course of a couple of years. We are in this for the long-term after all and if we pay attention and continue to work together and take responsibility for our role in clean water, we will see our efforts pay off.
Mayor of Baltimore Stephanie Rawlings-Blake at the Healthy Harbor report card press conference. Photo via Blue Water Baltimore.
Mid-week, the Choose Clean Water Coalition Annual Conference will also begin right here in Baltimore. The focus of the coalition is to serve as a strong, united, effective advocate for restoring the thousands of streams and rivers flowing to the Chesapeake Bay by coordinating policy, message action and accountability for clean water at the federal, state and local levels. The National Aquarium has been a member of the coalition almost since its inception and we are excited to help host this year! More than 275 representatives from organizations and governments from all over the Chesapeake Bay watershed will learn from some of the innovative initiatives developed in our city and elsewhere. It is an important chance to share common strategies and priorities so that we can build upon the work of each other to more effectively face our challenges and ultimately help improve our local streams, rivers and the Bay.
Finally, Baltimore City, like many other jurisdictions in Maryland is considering the establishment of a stormwater utility or Water Pollution Reduction Fee . The utility will be the major topic of discussion at the June 11th City Council meeting. The purpose of the utility will be to create a sustainable model that will allow our city to finance the repair and replacement of aging stormwater pipe systems currently in place and to implement innovative and effective stormwater reduction strategies that will clean our polluted stormwater runoff before it gets to the local streams. Now is not the time to debate the need for such a utility, legally the city is required to do this or face large fines; now is the time to let our city council know that we care about clean water and healthy communities.
Again, we all understand that we rely on access to clean water for not only life itself, but our quality of life as well. The water that we drink and that makes up the natural systems that surround us is intricately linked to our health and well-being.
The activity here in Baltimore this week reaffirms the critical concept that we have the power to CHOOSE clean water. We have the power to make individual choices that improve water quality (choices centered around your home, your work, your commute). We have the power to take collective actions to ensure healthy water supplies (volunteer in community cleanup and restoration efforts, use your purchasing power to stand up for clean water, etc.). We have the power to support our local governments in their efforts to provide communities access to clean water. – or we have the power to do nothing. Which are you going to choose?