Following the Water


Imprinting the city waterways to signify that a particular ‘sewer’ system goes directly to the river is a wonderful idea adopted by many communities. It is good for the river certainly, good as a reminder to the community and also gives the impression that the city council is trying to be environmentally forward. But are they embracing the environment as much as it seems? 


In my village, the water drains into the Wisconsin River. A big beautiful bold piece of liquid real estate the serves many functions pertinent to the all lives who call his shores home in the way of power, drinking water, food and wildlife. He begins in the North Country and ends at the Gulf of Mexico by way of the Mississippi River. What happens here, in my little town, effects thousands of miles of waterways?


I like this little sign; reminds me that we leave a footprint even when we try to walk softly upon the Earth. It is tiny reminder of where the water from a rainstorm goes after it has passed from the clouds to dance over asphalt, roofs, streets, lawns and leaves. It also brings to the forefront the amount of gook that finds its way into the river. To the Gulf and the Atlantic Ocean.


Certainly in this neck of the woods winter is a hazard where roads are concerned and those snow and ice covered roads need to become an even playing field by whatever means necessary. Consider the amount of salt that must find its way into the river during the melt. (Once again I admit I am easily distracted.) So then I stood there thinking about all the other things that find their way to the river like chemicals for deicing the roads. Next, I started to consider the amount of salt that must drift to the river in a winter’s season. And what about all the seepage from the asphalt roads that goes to the river through this street access when a summer thundershower blooms. Detergents and what not from washing cars…there is tons of garbage washing into the river!


Could these insults be the reason for drops in some species associated with river life? Does an overdose of saline in the spring runoff rupture the frog eggs left in the low brush along the bank? What about Blue Heron who feeds her catch to her young? Whatever the water becomes, so becomes the fish that live in the river. So becomes the animals that eat the fish. So becomes us.


But I like that we try. I like that there is a reminder to help protect the Mother Earth from ourselves. Can we do more? Sure. But it is better to ‘begin’ than to stand inert and agree that the problem is too large or complex to correct. Or even that it is someone else’s problem.


For every action there is a beginning, a small kindness, which ripples across the water. That little sign can remind us we can do the little things, when big things seem overwhelming.