Nine things you can do at home to help your river

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Thank You to American Rivers for this primer on "Things You Can Do To Help Your River."
If you want to do more, check out the American River's Web Site and click for the "Take Action Center." at the top.

What You Can Do to Help Protect the Taunton River!

Our nation's rivers are threatened by dams, pollution, sprawl, and a host of other problems. But before you get that this-problem's-so-big-there's-nothing-I-can-do-feeling, read this.

Here are some things you can do to make a difference.

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 (visit to search by your zip code). Are any species endangered? Extinct? Visit the Ecology section of our website.

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? These could help draw attention to preservation efforts. Visit "All About the Taunton River" Section.

Much of this information is available on the internet, through your library, by picking up the phone and by browsing this web site. You can contact local watershed groups, your state's natural resources department, and the county public works department. Visit our Affiliates section.

Check out your local newspaper's archives (often on the web) for stories about the river. Visit our Current News section.

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



Contact influential people

After you've got 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 get started.

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 your community. Talk about why the river is important to you.

Senator Mark Pacheco in photo to the right has been extremely instrumental
in assisting the Wild and Scenic River Study Committee as well as other
river conscious groups.

Get your neighbors to sign a petition and include this with your letter.



Get the media on your side

Once you've identified a problem that needs to be addressed, contact reporters at local newspapers, radio and TV stations, and magazines.

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.



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 DFWELE Riverways Program. Visit our Affiliates section for contacts.


You can also organize periodic trash pick-ups-- perhaps in cooperation with youth groups like the Girl Scouts-- to keep your riverbanks litter-free.



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. Contact us and we can assist you in your efforts.


Visit our Meetings section to stay updated with our Wild and Scenic River Meetings. You can even send us your comments upon review. Also visit our Calendar section to find out when other events are happening.



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.

You can help conserve water by installing 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 running while brushing your teeth or doing 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 a day.

Using low-flush toilets can save as much as 3/4 of the 40,000 or so gallons you flush down the sewer every year.

Outdoors, you can plant your yard with plants and flowers native to your area. If you live in the southwest part of the country, for example, think twice about planting lush Kentucky bluegrass and tropical flowers that require heavy watering. Your local nursery 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 you're not watering the street or sidewalk!

And 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, keep it covered. Or better yet, don't have a pool because evaporation wastes a lot of water.

Encourage water metering: Studies have shown that metered homes use 55 percent less water than unmetered homes. If your town doesn't currently use water meters, try to get them adopted.

Finally, reduce your power consumption. Keeping all the lights in the house lit may require large amounts of water for power plant cooling.

Additional materials:

Water Efficiency for Your Home Find out how you can conserve water at home.

Factsheets on home energy efficiency (From the Rocky Mountain Institute)




Don't use hazardous products

One quart of oil poured down the sewer can contaminate 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, moth balls...Make sure you read the directions on the containers and dispose of them properly. Many communities have hazardous waste collection days.

Even better, shop for non-toxic alternatives. Newspapers and cedar chips, for example, can serve the same purpose as moth balls. And two tablespoons of vinegar in a quart of water makes a good window cleaner.

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


Protect riverside greenways

We need 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 on activities in your local community that can help preserve the Taunton River.




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 insure that it functions correctly.

If the system fails, untreated wastewater could pollute groundwater and streams. You know if your system is malfunctioning if drains and toilets empty slowly or if effluent seeps up through the ground.