Recaps of water, plastic, and other Spring to the Tap related news!
Visit springtothetap.org/p/news.html for a rolling total and archives of all Springing Stories.
The beginning of fall marked the end of one of the worst summers in recent memory. Washington set a record (now in two consecutive summers) for the largest and most destructive wildfires in state history. Across the country over 8 million acres burned this summer, a total reached only five other times in the last 55 years. In part, this results from the world's hottest summer ever, shaping up 2015 to be the warmest year ever recorded––by a large margin.
The trend of increased burning and warming stresses water resources. In California a rapidly declining snowpack (the Sierra Nevada Mountains' snowpack hit a 500 year low) along with water shortages and rising temperatures have pushed Chinook salmon to the brink of extinction. Washington's glaciers are at their lowest levels in 4,000 years despite efforts by rain this winter to remediate lingering drought the depleted snowpack could mean less salmon, stalled hydropower, desiccated agriculture, and dried-up drinking water for years into the future.
During the last few months an alarming number of reports surfaced regarding plastic pollution. We learned that about 90% of seabirds on earth eat plastic. A statistic that will likely become 100% by 2050. Scientist also learned that plastic pollution reached the Arctic, that about half of the world's sea turtles have eaten plastic (and that seven species of sea turtle are threatened by plastic pollution), that there is about a 25% chance that the fish you ordered contains plastic (and maybe even the salt you eat too), and that the ocean may be contaminated by trillions more pieces of plastic than previously estimated.
The problem with plastic pollution is not just its unsightly appearance on our beaches and in our waterways and its potential to kill animals that eat plastic pollution, but also that plastics absorb toxic chemicals and allow them to bioaccumulate in the food chain. A report came out in September that endocrine disrupting chemicals––which can leach from plastics we use everyday––can become even more toxic in the presence of other chemicals.
Many groups are taking common sense approaches to reduce their use of avoidable items like bottled water. The National Parks Service is one agency leading by example, making tap water more accessible in parks across the country. But big corporations like Coca-Cola use exclusive deals with parks to sell over-priced water to tourists, and they do not like these sustainability initiatives. This summer beverage corporations used their influence in Congress to insert a measure into the House spending bill barring the park service from using federal money to support bans. In the final spending bill just passed this December, the only requirement for parks was to issue a report stating how these bans benefit the parks and the public in nineteen national parks across the country.
The importance of a safe, accessible, and sustainable source of water has never been more apparent to some communities. The town of Cascade Locks, Oregon is still in negotiations with Nestle (now for seven years) over a process aimed at transferring rights to Nestle to bottle spring water currently owned by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife used for an endangered salmon hatchery. Locals responded recently by filing a ballot initiative that would give residents a say in whether Nestle could bottle thousands of gallons of water in their town. Meanwhile, groups in California are suing Nestle over its illegal bottling of water on their national forest land.
These efforts highlight the need for a different kind of fight, one to once again value the safety of our water resources. This is a fight against the bigger problem; water schemes deny the right of all people to clean, cheap, and sustainable water. Often Americans dismiss access to water as occurring only in far away places, but even today investment and support for municipal water systems is gravely needed in communities like Flint, Michigan, and within the Navajo Nation.
October 1st, Report: Plastic pollution in the ocean is reaching crisis levels - Fortune
Plastic has infiltrated the ocean’s ecosystem, from plankton to whales.
November 13th, How declining snowpack threatens water supplies - The Christian Science Monitor
A new study examines how far-reaching effects of diminished snowpack could be.
December 15th, The Ocean Is Contaminated by Trillions More Pieces of Plastic Than Thought - Yahoo
Somewhere between 15 trillion and 51 trillions pieces of plastic litters the world’s oceans, a new study has found. That’s three to 10 times more plastic than scientists had previously estimated.