Students timing their showers and counting their loads of laundry. Volunteers fighting pollution of lakes and rivers by cleaning leaves from storm sewers. National experts delivering provocative lectures on water, the environment and the threats water faces.
Throughout 2010, the Freshwater Society – in partnership with residents and community groups throughout Minnesota – will celebrate the value of water in all our lives and take concrete actions to conserve, protect and restore water resources.
2010 – The Year of Water is a yearlong series of activities aimed at educating and inspiring adults and children to demonstrate a new ethic of stewardship toward lakes, rivers and groundwater. Information on the celebration is available at: www.freshwater.org or at www.2010theyearofwater.org.
“We want 2010 – The Year of Water to inform and energize people throughout Minnesota,” said Blyth Brookman, the chair of the Freshwater Society Board of Directors. “The pollution clean-ups, the lectures and all the other activities are an opportunity for us to learn more about water and to find ways, big and small, that we can protect and conserve it.”
Jack Pichotta, the founder of Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center and a member of the advisory group that recommended Freshwater sponsor the yearlong effort, explained the rationale:
“Making 2010 Minnesota’s Year of Water will elevate awareness and concern to a level that should then become a standard. Water is essential, not only to our quality of life, but to life itself. It’s pretty simple: Without water there is no life. Everyone should care.”
Polar explorer Will Steger, who in recent years has focused his energy on educating people about global warming, will be the featured speaker at a Jan. 26 event marking the formal beginning of 2010 – The Year of Water. He will speak on climate change and its effects on water resources
Activities that Freshwater will organize or guide other groups in organizing during 2010 include:
– A water conservation exercise in which many fourth- and fifth-grade students across the state will measure the water they and their families use at home and consider committing themselves to using less.
– Community Clean-Ups for Water Quality, an idea borrowed from the Friends of the Minnesota Valley, in which clubs, organizations and youth groups throughout Minnesota will be encouraged to combat phosphorus pollution and nuisance algae growth in lakes and rivers by recycling leaves and other organic matter that, otherwise, would wash into storm sewers in the spring and fall.
– A four-part lecture series – the Moos Family Speaker Series on Water Resources, co-sponsored by Freshwater and the University of Minnesota College of Biological Sciences — in which national and local experts will discuss major water issues.
– A significantly expanded web site offering more information on water issues and a region-by-region guide to groups and agencies throughout Minnesota that work to protect water.
Robert Glennon, a professor of law and public policy at the University of Arizona who has written two major books decrying Americans’ over-use and abuse of water, will be the first speaker in the lecture series. He will speak at 7 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 22 at the Student Center on the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul campus.
Dates for the other lectures, which will address climate change, endocrine disrupting compounds and the pollution of lakes and rivers from multiple sources, have not been set. All the lectures will be free and open to the public.
The water conservation exercise that is part of 2010 -The Year of Water will have two parts:
– The Freshwater Society has commissioned a free curriculum that will allow teachers to engage their elementary school students and the students’ parents in measuring household water use and looking for ways to reduce it.
– An on-line calculator, available on the Freshwater web site, will allow members of the public to quickly compute their water use and review tips on how to make simple water-saving changed in lifestyle and water use patterns. Another component of the on-line application will keep track, on a statewide basis, of the water savings that people pledge to achieve.
The volunteer community clean-ups by organizations are aimed at collecting and recycling the phosphorus-rich leaves and grass clippings that wash into storm sewers and then into lakes and rivers.
Phosphorus feeds algae, and algae reduce lake clarity, make it hard for other water plants to survive and – when they decompose – deplete oxygen in the lakes’ deepest reaches. The result is a lake environment that is especially hostile for deep-water fish, like lake trout, and not so hostile for carp and bullheads. Algae scum makes lakes unattractive for human recreation.
The Freshwater Society has produced a training video for organizations that want to fight pollution in their communities by conducting clean-ups. As the clean-ups are conducted, the volunteer groups conducting them will be encouraged to post an on-line tally of the phosphorus kept out of lakes and rivers.
In addition to the College of Biological Sciences and the Friends of the Minnesota Valley, Freshwater’s partners in organizing and sponsoring 2010 – The Year of Water are the Central Minnesota Water Educational Alliance and Metro WaterShed Partners. Freshwater is actively seeking other community groups as partners.
2010 – The Year of Water is organized around six bimonthly themes: The Health of Our Waters; Land and Water Connections; Our Lakes, Rivers and Streams; Wise Use & Conservation; The Future of Water; and Water’s Caretaker – You!
A series of posters illustrating the themes will be available for use in schools and other public places.
In addition, a special section of the Freshwater web site – accessible either from www.freshwater.org or from www.2010theyearofwater.org will list activities and provide a searchable list of additional information sources.
A bi-monthly electronic newsletter produced by the Freshwater Society will provide information about activities related to each theme and describe opportunities for people to join in them. To sign up for the newsletter, go to either web site.
(Updated Aug. 14, 2013)