By Jill Jedlicka
Water has defined our region’s history and it will define our future. We have come a long way in restoring our waterways since the Buffalo River and Lake Erie were declared dead in 1969 and 1971, yet we know there is still much to be done. Over the last decade, our community has rallied together to protect and connect to our globally significant fresh water resources.
Thursday, March 22, 2018, is World Water Day, which was established to focus international attention on the importance of water. With over 85 percent of the world living in conditions of water shortages and 1.1 billion people without access to safe drinking water, World Water Day is a reminder that we have the privilege of 20 percent of world’s fresh water flowing through our community every day.
As the guardians of this fresh water supply for nearly three decades, Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper recognizes that clean water is an essential human need and one whose value and demand will only continue to increase. The Great Lakes provide drinking water to 40 million people in the United States and Canada, and support more than 1.5 million U.S. jobs in a $1 trillion regional economy.
In all of the programs and projects through which Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper protects our waterways, restores surrounding ecosystems, connects people to water and inspires both economic growth and community engagement, we are grateful to have a community of partners in these efforts. The most frequent question our organization receives is how individual people and businesses can become involved or take action to protect our water resources.
This year will bring numerous opportunities for individuals to get their feet wet and hands dirty in our relentless push for clean and accessible waterways. Starting with our annual Shoreline Sweep on April 21, and monthly waterway cleanups all season long, to large and small-scale volunteer RestoreCorps habitat restoration projects along our shorelines, thousands of citizens of all ages will mobilize to make physical change in our community.
From our decades-long RiverWatch water quality testing program, to guided tours of our waterways and headwater forests, we have a myriad of ways in which our community can get involved in the active protection of our water. Many of these volunteer and stewardship programs will kick off during the inaugural Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper Weekend coming May 17-20.
On this World Water Day, we encourage everyone to find a way this water season to volunteer and become active stewards of our greatest natural resource. For more information about what is being done to protect our local water resources, or to become a volunteer, check out our website at bnwaterkeeper.org or call 852-7483.
Jill Jedlicka is the executive director at Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper.