Focus on Water: Celebrating National Water Quality Month

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Did you know that August is National Water Quality Month? It makes a lot of sense to draw attention to the importance of having clean water during a month when people are enjoying rivers, lakes, and oceans across the country.

Waterways in and around national parks provide some of the best recreational opportunities –whether you’re boating on Lake Powell at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, viewing the sandstone cliffs at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, snorkeling at Biscayne National Park, or fishing the Gibbon River in Yellowstone National Park.

Unfortunately, 207 of our 397 national parks–52 percent–have waterways that are considered “impaired” under the Clean Water Act, meaning they do not meet appropriate water quality standards. The most common reasons why they fail to meet the standards include high levels of pathogens, mercury, heavy metals, nutrients, and sediment. For national parks, most of these pollutants are the result of activities happening beyond park boundaries, often from upstream or airborne contaminants.

The National Park Service (NPS), in partnership with the U.S. Geological Survey, monitors water quality data and keeps general information such as acres of lakes, miles of streams, and even the number of waterfalls within and adjacent to each national park. They also keep track of the health of these many bodies of water. NPS makes all of this data publicly available so you can learn more about their efforts at http://nature.nps.gov/water/. You can also delve into the details on the different kinds of waterways in and around your favorite parks, including how much of this water is degraded or impaired by looking up the details at http://nature.nps.gov/water/HIS/index.cfm.

Fortunately, identifying a waterway as impaired allows states to start more proactive pollution reduction measures, helping to reverse the damage. For example, the state of Florida is working on a plan that will store and treat water for longer periods before it flows south to Everglades National Park from Lake Okeechobee, thereby reducing the amount of phosphorus and other pollutants that enter the park from upstream agricultural areas.

NPCA works to protect and restore the waterways in and around national parks because healthy parks depend on healthy waters. As we celebrate National Water Quality Month, rest assured that as you are enjoying these late summer days on a national park waterway that NPCA is working across the country to ensure that the rivers, lakes, and oceans are in the best conditions possible.

Join us in celebrating National Water Quality Month by taking action:

  • Take steps toward cleaning up waterways in your community and conserving water in your home. The J.M. Smucker Company and its Adams, Laura Scudder’s and Smucker’s Natural Peanut Butter brands are working with NPCA to encourage actions such as picking up litter along the waterline on your next hike at a park.  Just tell us how you’ll make a natural difference when you visit Make a Natural Difference online and they’ll donate $1* to NPCA.
  • Get updates on water quality news and other issues affecting national parks, including ways you can take action to make a difference, by joining our online community at www.npca.org/join.
  • Learn more about NPCA’s Great Waters program, visit www.npca.org/greatwaters.

*The J.M. Smucker Company and its Adams, Laura Scudder’s and Smucker’s Natural Peanut Butter brands have made a combined donation of $100,000 to the NPCA, and will make a combined additional donation of up to $100,000 through April 30, 2013.

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About the Author

Director of Conservation Sarah Barmeyer

Sarah Barmeyer is NPCA’s director of conservation and enjoys escaping from her computer to appreciate the best of what America has to offer. See some of her favorite national park photos on her Flickr account at https://flic.kr/ps/22FoeT