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Over the past ten years, the National Park Service and members of Congress have supported a community-based approached to conservation. Because there are few properties on the Upper Taunton River protected by state, local, or federal governments, a grassroots community effort is the only means truly protecting our river.

What can you do to help protect the Taunton River?

Our nation's rivers are threatened by dams, pollution, sprawl, and a host of other problems. Before you get too discouraged, read on for ways in which you can help make a difference. Click on each tip to view more.

1. Get to know your river!

Almost every community has a river or stream flowing through it. Find out where your river begins and ends. Learn about the plants, fish, birds, and wildlife that live there. You can visit the website to find out and search by your zipcode! Are any species endangered? Invasive?

How do people use the river? For recreation, irrigation, drinking water, hydropower? Is anyone polluting the water? Are there unique attributes, like special historical or archaeological sites along the river? Much of this information is available online and through your local library. You can contact local watershed groups, your state's natural resources department, and the county public works department.

Talk with your neighbors and people who live along the riverbanks. Fishermen, boaters, and local outfitters and guides can tell you a lot.

2. Contact influential People

After you have the facts, share your concerns with people in a position to do something about them. A well-organized letter or personal phone call is a powerful way to reach legislators - and how most grassroots conservation groups begin.

Simply gather the relevant data and describe the problems along your river. Be clear and specific. Tell how a clear-cut of timber might cause harmful erosion, or how water pollution threatens the health of our community. Talk about why the river is important to you. Get your neighbors to sign a petition and include it with your letter.

3. Get the media on your side

Once you have identified a problem that needs to be addressed, contact reporters at local newspapers, magazines, and radio and TV stations. Send a press release or make a simple phone call. Briefly outline the situation and give some possible solutions. Offer to take the reporters out to the river. Invite them to civic meetings where the issues will be discussed.

4. Become a river monitor

Many states keep tabs on the health of streams by monitoring indicators such as water quality and fish and wildlife populations. Getting involved is a satisfying, hands-on way to learn about and protect your river. Contact the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Division of Ecological Restoration Riverways Program for more information. You can also organize periodic trash puck-ups, perhaps in cooperation with youth groups like Girl Scouts, to keep your riverbanks litter-free.

5. Get involved in meetings

Other people in your community are probably just as concerned as you are about the problems facing your river. Together, you can accomplish a lot more than you could single-handedly.

Each state has permitting agencies that keep the public informed of their activities. Ask to be put on their mailing lists to receive notification of upcoming hearings. Attend these meetings and testify. Do your homework and describe the river and how the proposed activity threatens it. A local citizen who loves her river can be a lot more eloquent than a professional lobbyist.

If you're troubled by a new dam proposal or the stench from untreated waste, why not call a meeting and plan a strategy for dealing with it? Invite friends to your home, or post notices and hold your meeting in a school or church. Ask local officials, civic leaders, and business people to attend. Please feel free to contact us, and we can assist you in your efforts.

6. Conserve water and energy at home

The average American uses 243 gallons of water every day. And 236 of those gallons go straight down the drain, down the toilet, or for outdoor use. This wasteful consumption depletes rivers - forcing expensive technological fixes like new reservoirs and water transport systems. Read on for a list of ways you can reduce your water consumption.

  • Instal low-flow showerheads, which save about 26,000 gallons of water a year for a family of four who shower daily.
  • Don't leave the water unning while brushing your teeth or washing dishes. Put aerators on faucets and run your dishwasher and washing machine only when they're full. Repair leaks: a dripping faucet can waste 20 gallons of water per day.
  • Use low-flush toilets to save as much as 3/4 of the 40,000 or so gallons you flush down the sewer every year.
  • Outside, plant your yard with plants and flowers that are native to your area. If you lie in the southwest part of the contry, for example, think twice about planting lush Kentucky bluegrass and tropical flowers that require heavy watering. Your local nursey or garden store can help you choose native plants.
  • Water your lawn at dawn or dusk to avoid excessive evaporation. And make sure your sprinkler is set so that you're not watering the street or sidewalk!
  • Consider rainwater a resource. Re-route your gutters so rain is collected in a barrel or cistern. You can store this water and use it on your landscaping.
  • If you have a swimming pool, keept it covered or allow it to be refilled only by rainwater.
  • Encourage water metering: Studies have shown that metered homes use 55% less water than unmetered homes. If your town doesn't currently use water meters, try to get them adopted.
  • Finally, reduce your power consumption. Turn off lights when you leave the room, do not leave appliances plugged in or turned on when not in use, and shut off the TV. Power plants use a great deal of water for cooling purposes, and the more energy you use the more water they require.

Additional resources:
Water Efficiency for your home
Fact sheets on home energy efficiceny

7. Don't use hazardous products

One quart of oil poured down the sewer can contaminated 250,000 gallons of water! Make sure you dispose of toxic materials properly - some can even be recycled.

Our homes tend to contain lots of highly toxic products - things like furniture polish, paint remover, window cleaner, and moth balls. Make sure you read the directions of the containers and dispose of them properly. Many communities have hazardous waste collect days.

An even better alternative is to shop for non-toxic alternatives. Newspapers and cedar chips, for example, can serve the same purpose as moth balls. Two tablespoons of vinegar in a quart of water makes a good window cleaner.

Keep in mind that any fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides you spray on our lawn will end up in your river. If you do use these products, make sure you use the proper type and amount.

Mother Jones magazine has a great article and resources on the issue.

8. Protect riverside greenways

We needs to create more greenways - corridors of natural vegetation - along our rivers and streams. Greenways not only protect a river's beauty, they provide wildlife habitat, flood control, and natural filters for drinking water.

If your community has a greenway protection group, you can help them with activities like planting trees. If not, think about starting one yourself. And if you own riverfront property, allow trees and shrubs to grow along the banks. Contact members of our Wild and Scenic Committee for information on activities in your local community that can help preserve the Taunton River.

9. Maintain your septic system

If you have a septic system, learn how to maintain it and have it pumped and serviced every three to five years to ensure that it functions correctly. If the system fails, untreated wastewater or raw sewage could pollute groundwater and streams. You know if your system is malfuncitoning if drains and toilets empty slowly or if effluent seeps up through the ground.