Being a good steward of the waters

When we think of stewardship one of the first things that the majority of people seem to think of is the land, as in dry land. They think of protecting forests, prairies snd ect… in my experience the majority of time I ask someone what do they envision as a steward they seem to have this image of a farmer. Though it’s not directly related it seems to be the main image that people express. The second one seems to be a gardener. It’s only after discussing it a while longer that more of the image comes to mind.

One of the answers and topics that almost never comes up in discussions, unless I bring it up, is being a water keeper. The majority of Americans, and presumably most first world nations, actually have very little interaction with natural water. It’s something that is sometimes scenic in their walks such as a river boardwalk or if they live near a pond or ocean they see it. But beyond that there is little interactions with it.

One of the biggest gaps between being someone that just takes from natural resources versus someone who gives back is having a connection with it. Most people can’t tell me the basic “anatomy” of the sea closest to them. They have no idea what it’s topography is like. They can’t name 5 rivers or 5 ponds from within their own city. If they can name them they can’t tell you how deep it is , how shallow it gets during the summer or what watershed it’s part of or flows into. They can’t tell me the most common plants growing along its banks and if they are native or non native plants. They can’t name 5 species of turtle or fish that live in it. They have no idea if there are oysters in any of them. They can’t tell you typically even 1 endemic species from various flora and fauna families found within that watery ecosystem. Being disconnected to your local waterways is the main reason why you’ll struggle being a good steward of it.

So what are some of the ways you are currently helping generate cleaner water in your local ponds, rivers , bays, and wetlands? When is the last time you walked down a river in its water? There are also all kinds of other ways to bring attention to why we need healthy waters. You can look into social Justice concerning them such as have lots of dams been added to help redirect water towards more affluent neighborhoods causing water to be way to shallow for way to long in poorer communities? You can teach about indigenous people who use to live in your area and see what did they write and say about their rivers? You can try to find data about how much water is your local farms using for livestock from watering them to watering feedstock crops. You can randomly text water in spots to see it’s chemical composition and if there is to much of this or that in it from things like pesticides and fertilizers or production waste.

There are probably local water keeper groups where you live.

What are some memories you have as a kid of a river or pond and have you helped create similar memories in your kids? Just in general how do you contribute to what is happening with water in your area even if it’s a small thing and how do you keep a connection as a steward of the land and waters with the local ones near you?

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The largest extinction event in the continental US since European arrival was the damming of the Coosa River (Alabama). About 50 species of freshwater mollusks were wiped out. Freshwater snails are the most imperiled group of animals globally, followed closely by freshwater clams, crayfish, amphibians, and land snails.

Dams cause major changes in river conditions, as well as blocking fish passage. Dredging and straightening rivers promotes erosion upstream. People want to (and are often legally allowed to) take all the water they want and dump whatever they don’t want into the water that’s left. Paving and roofing blocks absorption of water into the ground, so more goes straight into the creek, promoting flooding right after rain and low flows later on when there’s less groundwater to supply the creek between rainfall events.

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It’s one of the biggest reasons when along banks we focus on leading up to it using rain gardens, creating berms with rocks or ground, and use sedges and other plants along the edges to reduce the velocity of it. You can create divots in ground and cover it with grasses and shrubs leading up to the steam.

Ive not heard about the dam but definitely will look it up. We’re you keeping up with the whole georgia, florida snd alabama river issues lately?

Was reading a bit about it this three part series .

Soon, pure, clean, healthy water will become more valuable than gasoline.

Actually, watersports are more popular in the US than you may think. One of the traditional past times in the city I live in is to float the river that goes through the middle of town. This is a common sight . . .

Of course, I am spoiled living in the Pacific NW, and I imagine that things are quite different on the East coast. However, I do think people in my region are a lot more conscious of preserving our rivers and lakes because we do interact with nature and water a lot more than some of our American cousins. The white water canyons and fisheries are some of the jewels of our state, so we do cherish them.

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Sure. But the majority of Americans are definitely not getting out and kayaking, or hiking rivers and so on. The majority barely get into nature on the land. It’s not bypassed by water sports. I kayak a lot and many of my friends do. But that’s definitely not the norm.

Where I live it’s also higher than normal for these sports. The southeast has the mobile delta and the gulf coast and we have tons of rivers and so on.

I have a handful of memories surrounded around water. One of the earliest memories is of me and my uncle in his boat coming in from the Gulf of Mexico snd going through a bunch of streams and we kept coming up to bridges that were so low we had to lay down to get under them and once we had to hop off and swim to push it through and it was all because he wanted to show me how a persimmon tree was at this one spot and the only way to get to it was by a boat.

I also have lots of various memories as a kid swimming in the local clear fresh water. Many of the rivers here cut deep and so the banks will be 10-15 feet high and during the rainy season after big storms several of these creeks would rise all the way up and over flow and for miles in the watersheds and lowlands it would be deep. During early winter it was the war time to look for large lion’s mane mushrooms in oaks that was usually 20 feet above the ground which was muddy year around and you would sink to your knees in it but after these floods they would be like 10 feet away and you could get them down easier ropes tossed around the branches being used as a saw pulled back and forth through them.

One funny memory I have is how our road was a three mile long dirt road with a river turned into a large ditch. This ditch was about 12 feet wide and 6 feet deep. I was probably 6-7 and my brother was 4 or 5. We took one of those Walmart baby pools that was like 4 feet wide and tossed it in and climbed in it. We rode it all the way down to the end of the road snd down down a even bigger ditch along the main road about another 3 miles until it hit culverts.


One of the best memories though is of my baptism in 2008, a few months after my son was born. It came after studying the Bible for about four months , often at 5am in the morning, with a group of brothers from the Portland Church of Christ. I got baptized early march in the Columbia river around 10pm. It was freezing cold. Two guys, Josh and Joe baptized me along with a handful of men from the church. It will always be a cherished memory of being added to the church that say as I received forgiveness of sins.


There are three ways I try to help be a protector of our water.

  1. I work as a volunteer, and often alone, going up and down river banks looking for invasive plants and removing them. Sometimes it takes me weeks just to work through 1/4 of a mile. Lots of hard work. I also remove trash out of them.

  2. I am a strong believer that the farming and animal livestock industry greatly damages our water system. It’s very toxic. Lots of livestock crops are grown. I believe more crops are grain to feed a animals than for people. Over 1/3 of crops are grown for animals. By eliminating that out of my diet and focusing on local small farms by locals who care about our local habitats and environments.

  3. I try to take as many people as willing out hiking in the rivers and kayaking down them and trying to get people interested in our water. I share local blogs and get people into turtles and so on.

Though this is a fairly new area of interest. So I’m still learning a lot.

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I was wondering what are some of your favorite books or blogs concerning south eastern USA water systems. Especially interested in anything focused on alabama rivers , ponds and it’s natural history. Any good books that focus on freshwater snails and so on?

This was a wonderful post! I had previously shared Free the Ocean, where you can visit every day and answer a question about the ocean; and each time you do, you sponsor the removal of one piece of plastic from the ocean.

I was raised in coastal Connecticut on Long Island Sound, and live there still, so we’re naturally very fond of our beautiful coastline. Boating and other watersports are very popular here. Growing up, my grandparents in R.I. had an oceanfront house on beautiful Narragansett Bay. My other grandparents in Texas had a farm in East Texas, which had a very beautiful creek running through the property, perfect for playing. We could even dig natural clay from the banks.

We have some rivers and creeks in town, but naturally we are more focused on the ocean and beaches. However, I have been on two rafting trips out west, and once I sailed on Pete Seeger’s Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, a project he established to clean up the Hudson River.

What do I do for the water? I don’t use plastic shopping bags or single-use plastic bottles. I’m vegan and that cuts down on pollution. I don’t use synthetic fertilizer on my lawn or gardens, so it there is no polluting runoff into the sound.

I think you’ll find that most Americans are crazy about the water. We’re willing to pay a premium for proximity to any nice body of water, and we even pay more for water views at hotels. And water parks are very popular.

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There is a four-volume set, about 12 years old, Alabama Wildlife, which highlights the species of concern in Alabama, including many freshwater forms. If you’re more ambitious for detail, there are large books on the freshwater mussels and the freshwater fish of Alabama. The snails are not as comprehensively covered by an up-to-date source; https://molluskconservation.org/ has some good resources, and some of the best pictures of amazing adaptations of freshwater mussels for getting their larvae onto fish hosts are at http://unionid.missouristate.edu/

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Finding a parking space at our local river park (SW North Carolina) was a bit challenging today, but I don’t know how many of those around know anything about the wildlife, or the concerns due to major pollution sources upstream (last year the electric company was finally required to not just dump coal ash in an unlined pond a little ways upstream (#2 CO2 emitter in the state), and a metal recycling plant a little farther upstream is likely a source of serious pollution.

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I’ll definitely read through them and check out the blogs. I’ll also try to find info on thinking skills of mussels. Ive always been interested in consciousnesses snd self awareness within other species. Even things like how does slime mold learn to navigate , and repeat the path better and quicker each time it’s in a maze and so on.

Thanks for the info.

Went on a nice short creek hike this morning after hiking the woods for a few hours. It’s only 10am but it feels like 5pm to me. Woke up at 5am and cleaned a while. Went hiking in a local pine forest for a few hours snd then came hike and ate breakfast and then headed out to hike along a creek. Though I enjoyed it I was also a bit irritated. I have spent 5 years working on this creek alone for the most part. Hurricane Sally came through and a tornado went up it knocking me back further than when I started. Lot motivation for a while but ready to start again. I’ll cut some baths to get down to the creek easier. Then I’ll use my battery powered chainsaws and pole saws along with handsaws to open it back up by removing trees that fell across it. When it’s fall I’ll begin clearing the banks. I’ll remove all invasive plants and restore it with native plants. I’m thinking of using a shovel to find the old stone stairs that was placed here in the early 1900s. They are just covered up by decades of sand and plants from hurricanes. The stairs was here before this house or the house before it was here lol. But up until about 20 years ago some of them was still exposed.

While hiking came across a lovely fishing spider mother. Some of these species will seemingly use their eggs as a floating device as they walk across water.

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I thought you would enjoy this article from Inside Climate News:

A Watershed Moment: How Boston’s Charles River Went From Polluted to Pristine

A pair of mute swans is nesting not far from downtown, and the new head of the EPA is promising “durable” rules to protect the habitat.

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Speaking of water, I love this Baptism prayer from the 1979 Book of Common Prayer:

We thank you, Almighty God, for the gift of water.
Over it the Holy Spirit moved in the beginning of creation.
Through it you led the children of Israel out of their bondage
in Egypt into the land of promise. In it your Son Jesus
received the baptism of John and was anointed by the Holy
Spirit as the Messiah, the Christ, to lead us, through his death
*and resurrection, from the bondage of sin into everlasting life. *

We thank you, Father, for the water of Baptism… etc.

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It’s definitely inspiring that it went D quality to you being able to swim in it. I am a bit curious what they determined as the mother swans death. Hopefully the metal issue there will be addressed.

Where I live we don’t have manufacturing plants as the biggest issue for the smaller creeks but we do have some problems with no one wanting to design in seeps and water gardens or berms layered with sedges and so on leading up to creeks snd so lots of trash ends up in them. Disappointingly about 30 acres along the creek was recently clear cut. It was only 80 feet of woods running down it but that’s a decent small habitat housing hundreds of birds and so on. Of all things it was a church that bought the land and they clear cut everything, rolled everything and created a ridiculously large paved parking area and their entire congregation 2 years later don’t even fill up 1/5th of it. I talked to them pastor about it and he claimed god showed his a vision of the entire parking lot being filled in and so he did it. I also called him out on a mile down from there I came across a few hundred chopped down trees in the creek that was tossed in has created a impassable dam about 15 feet high and about 180 feet long. He said it was not from them that the man that cut it all down goes to the church. It was his company and they did not. But I know they did. The creek begins just 2 miles north of that spot and I love 1 mile from the start and there is no clearing like that and no dam until after his. I don’t know what to do about it. I know I can’t just start a big fire lol. The fire department won’t do it either, snd I’ve called them about a control burn there. They want because of the air pollution it would cause and possible escape. Part of me hopes a lightening storm will strike it igniting it. Eventually i just keep calling daily and pestering someone until it’s fixed. They are using millions of dollars of BP gulf money to build boardwalks along the beach which is not doing any environmental benefit and I’m hoping they can just use some of that to send out a crane and handle it. Eventually something will happen.

The swan dying reminded me of Chinese horror story I read called something like “ Man in White” which was about some hunters that shot and killed a mother swan and her chicks. When they did it the father swan got away but they heard it’s honking for hours. As they begin to travel down the road that came across a man wearing all white with a yellow band and black hat. “ whooper swan” The man shot off arrows killing two of men. The third man escaped but woke up in his hut in his village with his family all slayed and the man was there. He kept begging the man why is he doing this and the other man then took off his hat which was housing a large feather and several small feathers with blood on them. Finally the killer left leaving the hunter alive and the hunter ran and looked out the window and all he could see is a large swan flying off.

In October there is a three day long event at a nature preserve for Halloween. One part of it leading up to it is a cookout and campfire which always has 2-3 horror stories told and each year at least one of them is focused on animal rights or environmentalism. Depending on the ages the stories can get pretty dark and graphic. Like Old Tanner is very dark. It’s about a swamp man possessed by a alligator that uses humans for leather because they poisoned the water from all the leather made by a local factory making purses, wallets and belts and so on.

I think storytelling is also a great way to shape a persons worldview, including a kids. Get someone to have a emotional
Attachment to something then they are more likely to want to learn about it and ultimately put it into practice.

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I definitely want to read a handful of books on it. Often the public library down here will let various people set up a topic specific book station and on the weekend when kids come there for reading time they will pick from it. I think maybe I’ll try to get a handful of books for kids as well and set up a section there. Read through them all and a handful of larger books for adults and try to find a way to work out a “study guide” that draws from common knowledge within the books so parents and kids can work on it together.

Seen several good ones here.
https://m.alibris.com/search/books/subject/Stream-ecology

Of course there is also always books by Rachel Carson.

One book I’m really looking forward to is coming out sometime early next year most likely. It’s by Scot Duncan and is called “Creek to Coast: Restoring the Rivers at the Heart of America’s Freshwater Biodiversity”.

Several landscape design and permaculture design books also dedicate a chapter to cleaning waters through residential garden designs.

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That’s a horrifying story about the church destroying everything! Where was that? The pastor belongs in the lowest circle of hell.

Note that mute swans are invasive in North America and damaging to native wetlands.

Mussels, like all clams, have no head or brain, though they do have multiple ganglia. Thus, they are unlikely to think, but do have a modest range of behavior options.

Path-following tends to rely on chemical cues. A classic example of misleading results in that line came from an experiment that trained planaria to follow a simple maze (eg one turn, left or right). Trained planaria were fed to other planaria, which tended to go the direction that the eaten individual was trained to go. It was reported as memories surviving digestion, but it was actually chemical trail following.

Poor use of recovery funds is unsurprising - hurricane recovery funds have often gone to pricy condos rather than affordable housing.

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