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Water, an Endangered Resource, and the Hand of Man

Terra Ceia Restoration ©Lynne Buchanan
We have all seen the frightening photographs of the drought in California and the effect that has had on rivers and waterways.  What we need to realize is that our waterways are suffering all over the country, even in Florida, which we have thought of as the water state for so long.  Our actions directly affect the state of our rivers and springs, which are our lifeblood.  We can choose to act benevolently and try to improve our individual behavior and monitor and clean up what gets dumped in, or we can continue to poison and pollute our water and suffer accordingly no matter what party we belong to.

The image above is part of the Terra Ceia Aquatic Buffer Preserves, just south of the Manatee County Line.  This is the largest habitat restoration on Tampa Bay and when it is complete it will be one of the largest in Florida.  I was so surprised when I arrived there and saw the tidal marshes and wetlands and meandering creeks further in.  I didn't know there was anywhere that had been returned so closely to its original state in Tampa Bay, which is highly developed in most places.  I saw all kinds of birds when I was there and I knew they appreciated how the hand of man had turned back destruction here and given them a place to feed and rest and breed.

Though this marsh looks relatively unspoiled and clean, the water a little further in from the bay itself had much more muck throughout it due to its greater stagnation that allowed pollutants to pool.  After I left and drove further up the coast, I came to a decommissioned phosphate mine that was still clearly leaching phosphorous into the water.  I was able to get close to the runoff while still being on public land and the image below shows what the water looked like.  No doubt this contributed to the point source pollution that was traveling down water to the restoration project.

Phosphate Runoff ©Lynne Buchanan
The water was brown and nasty looking throughout the length of the drainage ditch.  

Industry is not the only thing affecting our waterways.  Agriculture and people's lawns have an equally devastating impact.  A couple of months ago, I was kayaking on the Chassahowitzka River in Citrus County.  The river is one of the more unspoiled ones in the area in terms of shoreline.  The 5-mile long river is spring-fed and many birds, including the bald eagle, and the West Indian Manatee call it home.  I had heard so many wonderful things about it and from the shoreline up it was very beautiful, as was the water near the source of the springs.  However, I did not have to go far to find ailing water and I came across the greatest concentration of green slime I have seen anywhere yet.  

Chassahowitzka Muck ©Lynne Buchanan

This image was made right near the confluence of the Chassahowitzka and Baird Creek.  All three of the images will be at the "Water an Endangered Resource" opening at the Fogartyville Arts and Media Center tomorrow at 6pm.  At the opening, the film "Groundswell Rising" will also be shown.

I hope when people see these images, they will be motivated to examine their own output of toxic chemicals and fertilizers, so that in the future I can focus primarily on beautiful scenes once again. To think we allow our waterways to become so filled with slime is disconcerting and I feel if more people saw what was happening with their own eyes they would stand up for the environment.  I know I would rather leave a legacy of many restorations than choked rivers and streams.