We all can do our part for the planet
by Jon Markovich
In the previous Healthy Waters blog, my colleague Micka Peck wrote about the stream sampling we did for benthic macroinvertebrates. Pulling on a pair of waders and kicking around in the stream sampling was only half the fun. After the outdoor fieldwork, I changed wardrobe from field gear to lab coat. Ok, I didn’t really wear a lab coat, but I was in a lab processing the preserved macroinvertebrates for later identification.
It’s been established that macroinvertebrates are good indicators of water quality conditions. Identifying which macroinvertebrates are present in a stream sample provides a link to determining whether a stream has good water quality and supports a healthy aquatic community.
One sample collected from a stream can have hundreds, even thousands, of macroinvertebrates. Thankfully, my target was to process a small sub-sample – around 200 individuals. This involves spreading the entire sample onto a gridded pan, randomly selecting a grid and removing all materials within it, and “picking” through the leaves, dirt, gravel, and other debris to separate out macroinvertebrates. At times, it felt as though I was playing a game of “Where’s Waldo?” In this case, “Waldo” could have no tails, two tails, or three tails, gills or no gills, or a whole number of different features. Sorting through these samples is no joke – it takes serious skill to quickly pick out bugs from non-bug debris. But after they’ve been picked from the sub-samples, the macroinvertebrates are identified under a microscope.
Looking under the scope, I marveled at these creatures. The different features and shapes of each bug were jaw-dropping. One bug, a burrowing mayfly in the family Ephemeridae, has protruding tusks on the side of its mouth like an elephant. The tusks help this family of mayfly to burrow into soft sediment to feed. Another bug, a dragonfly in the family Aeshnidae, had a hinged-mouth that extended to be nearly half the length of its body! Dragonfly larvae are predatory and this super-extendable mouthpart allows them to quickly snap up prey. These kinds of distinguishing features and characteristics are what scientists look at under the microscope for macroinvertebrate identification.
Although they look way cooler under a microscope, you don’t need one to see macroinvertebrates. If you have the chance, go check out your local stream, flip over rocks and search the stream bottom. You too could become an invertebrate investigator!
About the Author: Jon Markovich joined EPA’s Water Protection Division in 2014 and works in the impaired waters and Total Maximum Daily Load programs. In his spare time, Jon enjoys hiking, kayaking and camping in the Mid-Atlantic Region’s many great state parks.
It was inspiring to see so many committed water practitioners at World Water Week in Stockholm the last week of August, coming together to share experiences and advance global action to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal of safe and accessible water and sanitation for all (SDG6) by 2030. As we know, access to water and sanitation is key to thriving communities. It determines whether poor girls are educated, whether cities are healthy places to live, whether industries grow, and whether framers can withstand the impacts of floods and droughts.
Without it, we are limiting our full potential. In fact, today we face a “silent emergency”, with stunted grown affecting more than a third of all children under five in countries such as Bangladesh, Indonesia, Niger and Guatemala. This was presented in the new World Bank report WASH Poverty Diagnostics, provides new data on water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) for 18 countries and finds that we get the biggest bang for the buck when we attack childhood stunting and mortality from many angles simultaneously, in a coordinated way. While improving water and sanitation alone does improve a child’s well-being, the impacts on child height are multiplied when water, sanitation, health, and nutrition interventions are combined. The report also pinpoints the geographical areas in a country where access to services are low or missing completely, and suggests that to move the needle on improving poverty indicators, policies need to be implemented and resources have to be better targeted to reach the most vulnerable.
Cities are always a hot topic of discussion for us working in development and they took center stage in Stockholm this year. The SDGs provide even more impetus for cities to be inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. This goal is inextricably linked to securing safe and sustainable access to WASH services for all and managing water as it travels across the city.
As cities grow and become thirstier and often dirtier, different users and uses of water are competing for this scarce resource. We therefore have to be smart in how we provide clean water, sanitation and related services to all city dwellers, especially the poor. We brought together practitioners from cities in Brazil, Sweden, Ethiopia and the United States for a series of rich discussions on Integrated Urban Water Management (IUWM) approaches for sustainable cities. We hope that these conversations will contribute to shifting mindsets which embrace a more efficient use of water while including the needs of all water users in a city through broad stakeholder participation. Our IUWM sessions also sparked discussions of partnerships and learning between Brazil and Ethiopia as well as with Stockholm and some of our client counterparts.
We also took a detailed look at the challenges of the urban sanitation agenda where it is clear that, with only 26% of urban excreta safely managed in developing country cities today, we won’t be able to deliver safely managed urban sanitation to all through business as usual. Together with key partners we promoted action on Citywide Inclusive Sanitation, highlighting the need for a radical shift in how we think about urban sanitation for all, embracing a mix of approaches combining reticulated and on-site solutions.
In Stockholm, issues of social inclusion – gender in particular –also received a lot of attention. We took the opportunity to launch “The Rising Tide”, a report on water and gender and to discuss how broad societal inequalities are mirrored in, or exacerbated by, water-related areas such as fishing and farming while being cemented by norms and traditions. This usually disadvantages women, but in our research we also saw some surprising findings. For example, we often think that women give higher priority to water and sanitation than men, but the data from across several African countries show that in fact, men and women have very similar priorities. We also found that men, not women, are more likely to die from drowning which perhaps runs contrary to popular belief.
With a changing climate, greater incidences of droughts and floods, and more fragile environments, our clients are suffering the impacts of water scarcity. So we need to step up our efforts to help them. This is most evident in our work in the Middle East and North Africa region, and it was the main topic of our new report Beyond Scarcity that looks at how countries can anticipate water scarcity and act to strengthen water security rather than waiting to react to the inevitable disruptions of water crises.
That water has long been a subject of conflict was echoed by this year’s Stockholm Water Prize Winner Stephen McCaffrey, who quoted Mark Twain when he said ‘Whiskey is for drinking, while water is for fighting over’, and underscored the need for stronger adherence to international legal structures around resources that are increasingly scarce – and often shared between countries.
What became perhaps most clear at this year’s Stockholm Water Week is that Standard Operating Procedures won’t cut it if we are to achieve SDG6. On a macro level, we need strong leadership from heads of state, such as through the High Level Panel on Water, and on a micro level, we need to work with countries to develop lending instruments and strategies, and make sure that our organizations are adaptable and nimble enough to provide us with the innovative tools needed to meet the many challenges faced. Just as water touches most of the SDGs, our work has to entail collaboration and cooperation with every actor involved in protecting the most vulnerable around the world.
But the SDGs will not be met without significant changes in how the sector is financed. The financing gap is growing and it is likely that public and concessional finance will not close this gap. Thus, increased commercial finance will be needed, regardless of whether services are provided by the public or private sector. In developed economies, long-term financing is raised in domestic capital markets and we are seeing increased evidence that this is working in emerging markets as well. To reach this goal, service providers need to become more technically and financially efficient and governance and regulatory structures managing water need to be more transparent. With increased accountability, service providers improve their operations, become more viable, and can diversify their financing options. Our report “Easing the Transition to Commercial Finance” intends to help our client countries and service providers access the domestic financial market.
At the opening plenary at which I served as a panelist along with other ministers and youth representative, I reiterated these messages to all participants. They were well received and appreciated by the audience. It is my hope that by next year’s World Water Week, I will be able to reflect in the progress made in all these areas.
By: Jessica LaRosa, Hartford County 4-H Member
This summer, I had the opportunity to attend the 2017 Citizenship Washington Focus with 38 other 4-Hers from Connecticut. The trip was held in Washington D.C., and focused on our nation’s Legislative Branch in government, along with looking at how to become better leaders and citizens in our communities. When I attended the trip, there were also delegates from 9 other states who were interested in becoming better leaders in their communities.
While in Washington D.C., we attended workshops and committee meetings, and even got to tour the memorials in the District, and famous landmarks near D.C, such as Mount Vernon. We participated in events such as Twilight Tattoo at an Army base, and attended a dinner theatre. Overall, the trip was an amazing experience, and it was very educational on how our country’s Legislative Branch operates. Thank you to everyone who was able to help make this journey happen.
Please visit http://www.4-h.uconn.edu for more information on Citizenship Washington Focus, and our other UConn 4-H programs.
Brush Hill Farm – CT Dairy Farm of the Year 2017, UConn Extension Green Pastures Program
By Joyce Meader
Looking for cows at Brush Hill Farm? Look no further than the pasture. Other than a few hours a day when the cows are being milked in the barn, they enjoy fresh air, sunshine, and lush greens.
The herd spends their days — and nights – outside, from the moment the grass sprouts in April to the beginning of November, when winter starts to take hold.
The dairy farm in the small town of Bozrah isn’t the biggest dairy farm in the state, but this year, it’s been named Connecticut’s Dairy Farm of the Year, the 2017 Green Pasture Award winner.
The Green Pasture Award is given every year to one outstanding dairy farm in each of the New England states, with winners evaluated on production records; herd, pasture, and crop management; environmental practices; contributions to agriculture and the local community; and overall excellence in dairying.
Sarah and her husband, Texas Moon, oversee 35 Holsteins on about 160 acres. The farm’s been in the Brush family since the late 1800s, but while Sarah’s great-grandparents milked Jerseys, her grandfather and father rented the fields to local farmers for haying. Her dad had pigs, with little interest in cows, but Sarah and her husband used to raise heifers on the farm and sell them, then repeat the process.
Finally, in the early 90s, she and Texas rented the farm from her dad. They converted his pig barn to a freestall barn for their cows, started milking and haven’t looked back since.
Their three children were all involved in 4-H, and since this is a family operation, they help out when they can. The oldest, April, earned a degree in agricultural economics and worked on the farm until two years ago. Recent high school graduate Dixie loves being on the farm, says her mother, and is an award-winning member of the National FFA Association, while son Levi, 15, likes tinkering with tractors and other machinery.
Family is the focus of life on the farm, says Sarah, who admits dairying isn’t an easy way to make a living. “But it’s what we want to do,” she explains. “This is our comfort zone, our passion. My mom lives with us here on the farm, and though she’s never been a farmer, she’s part of the farm.”
The Green Pasture Award came as a welcome surprise. “It’s a huge honor to be nominated by our peers,” says Sarah, “and it shows that there is definitely still a place for small ‘ag’ in this country. Small or big – there’s room for all.”
Being a small operation, Brush Hill Dairy relies on community support as a key to success, whether it’s loyal customers showing up to browse the small farm store or the members of Brush Hill’s CSA garden. She and Texas are also gratified by assistance from the Natural Resources Conservation Service, which has provided financial and other support to help establish the farm’s intensive rotational grazing program, as well as grants for other improvements. “We’re as sustainable as we can possibly be,” says Sarah, and that includes being mindful of the farm’s environmental impact.
But back to those ever-grazing cows. Think they mind being outside in all kinds of weather? As Sarah explains with a laugh, “In the spring, they’re ready to go out, and in November, they’re ready to come back in!”
You are cordially invited to the release the Zwick Center’s new ag econ impact report on Friday, September 29th at 9.30 AM at the Legislative Office Building (room 1-B) in Hartford.
Speakers include U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, the Commissioner of Ag Steven Reviczky, and Dean Cameron Faustman.
NSW Health documents obtained by the ABC reveal areas where deadly pathogens are regularly detected at dangerous levels in unfiltered drinking water pumped from rivers, lakes and dams.
The water safety reports, obtained after a lengthy freedom-of-information battle, also show more than 100,000 NSW residents were issued protective boil-water alerts in the last five years.
Around Grafton, a population of 40,000 are at risk from cryptosporidium, a parasite that causes gastrointestinal illness.
Residents have faced 10 boil-water alerts since 2006, issued “in response to the inability of the water supply system to manage risks”.
The documents say faecal contamination from cattle, and even swimmers along the lower Clarence River catchment, is the parasite’s source
Similar problems plague the Bemboka River catchment, near Merimbula, with four boil-water alerts issued by Bega Valley Council in 10 years.
Deadly bugs originate in “onsite sewerage system discharges”, “failures and presence of septic systems” and from dairy farms upstream.
The documents say “chlorine-resistant pathogens” — not killed by chemical treatments — are a threat to more than 40,000 people. (more…)
Farmers on Queensland’s McIntyre River say the Federal Government’s $13 billion Murray-Darling Basin plan has failed as it allows cotton irrigators to replace water sold back to the Commonwealth with extra floodwaters caught off the plains.
- Murray-Darling Basin plan allows irrigators to catch floodwaters off the plains
- Farmers claim millions of taxpayer dollars have been wasted, with no water savings achieved
- Water being “backed up in Queensland”, according to farmer Clay Maher
The farmers claim millions of taxpayer dollars invested in local water efficiency projects have been wasted, with no actual water savings achieved.
“The water is backed up in Queensland and it’s not getting into NSW,” according to farmer Clay Maher.
“It should end up at the end of the Murray Darling.”
His neighbour Chris Lamey said extra floodwaters were allowed to be caught by irrigators, which subverts the intent of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. (more…)
Learn How To Reduce Your Water Usage
Water conservation is something we all should practice. Except for the air we breathe, water is the single most important element in our lives. It’s too precious to waste. Here are some useful facts and simple suggestions that will help you understand more about water. They’ll help you save hundreds, even thousands, of gallons per month without any great inconvenience. Conserving water is something that we all should be doing. We take water and water supply for granted when in all actuality supply is in high demand and of limited resource very little of the Earth’s natural water can actually be used for human consumption. Producing water is costly and uses those limited supplies of water available. By conserving water you can help supply more water while bringing a multitude of benefits your way. (more…)
It just goes to show that when it comes to your fencing, a little planning goes a long way!
A couple has arrived at their new rental home to find a fence built around the front of the property blocking off vehicle access to their garage.
New Zealand couple Beck Cole and Deo Bohn got quite the surprise when they arrived at their new Queenstown home earlier this year, to find a ‘bizarre’ wooden fence that hadn’t been there when they inspected the property. (more…)