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The Thirst Is Real

world-water-day

A water drop. Copyright: Michael Melgar, license: GNU FDL

After a long day at work, a good workout at the gym, or just a walk in the sizzling summer sun our personal need for water is even greater. Imagine turning on the faucet and tap-tap there is nothing there or that water coming from the faucet isn’t safe to drink. There is no bottled water to get you by, no water fountain to fill the gap. Water, like the air we breathe, is a precious natural resource. It is necessary to sustain life and, although it covers much of the earth, is also in short supply for those that need it most. According to a United Nations Report, 783 million people lack access to clean water and almost 2.5 billion do not have access to adequate sanitation. Take a second to imagine that situation: no water to drink, bathe in, cook with, or use for luxury purposes like washing the car or watering the lawn. Water quality and quantity are a global challenge.

Water issues are everywhere. Even in a country like the United States, where we seem to take water for granted, there are people who lack access to clean water due to lack of infrastructure and pollution. These issues are even more pervasive in developing nations and areas where there are population explosions. The already inadequate infrastructure cannot keep up with the demands on the system. Water pollution abounds from agricultural, human, and industrial sources. We have seen these examples in communities in Michigan, Alabama, Louisiana, and Texas to name a few. In addition to water quality, climate change adds to an ever-increasing water scarcity by causing water to evaporate more quickly.

Human thirst for water is real and so must be the solutions to combat this crisis. Because there is a limited supply, we must focus on having clean sources of water. No one should lack access to clean water. There are actions that we can take individually such as conserving water and reducing our own pollution; but, there are other actions that take a collective broader approach. These actions can include:

  • finding ways to decrease agricultural runoff to reduce sediment, bacteria, fertilizers, and pesticides in waterways;
  • water reuse such as gray water systems;
  • combatting climate change to deal with scarcity issues;
  • using pollution prevention methods and technologies to decrease contamination from industrial sources;
  • sustainable development, which includes low impact development and green infrastructure;
  • and building infrastructure in new places as well as rebuilding crumbling infrastructure.

Until we stand firm and act, hold our representatives responsible, and advocate for clean water at all levels of government, we will witness the devastating consequences of clean water scarcity including disease and death of millions of humans as well as fish and wildlife, rampant hunger, and incidents that impact our security. A few weeks ago, we celebrated World Water Day but our commitment to preserving this natural resource should be daily.


Chanceé Lundy Russell is the Co-Founder of Nspiregreen LLC an environmental consulting, urban planning and public engagement firm based in Washington, DC. The Selma, Alabama native received her BS in Environmental Science from Alabama A&M University and her MS in Civil Engineering from Florida State University. She is passionate about environmental justice issues and works to create healthy, livable communities for all.

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Waste and Race Matter: Current Issues In Environmental Justice

As residents of the wealthiest country on the planet, having clean air, water, access to food and living free of harmful toxins shouldn’t be a privilege, it should be a right. Unfortunately, communities of color continue to bear the burden of environmental racism and neglect. Like our last post on How Transportation Shaped Black Communities, I am listing articles that feature communities suffering at the hands of environmental injustice. While administrations and policies change, it is important to remember that there are humans caught in the cross hairs of politics and willful neglect. It is up to each of us to share their stories, advocate with them, and work to combat environmental racism.

These select articles do not do justice to an issue that pervades marginalized communities; however, they do provide some context to issues that too many communities face.  Unfortunately, race matters when it comes to waste. We must advocate for regulations, more stringent policies, enforcement and cleaner technologies until environmental racism is eradicated.

Chanceé Lundy Russell is the Co-Founder of Nspiregreen LLC an environmental consulting, urban planning and public engagement firm based in Washington, DC. The Selma, Alabama native received her BS in Environmental Science from Alabama A&M University and her MS in Civil Engineering from Florida State University. She is passionate about environmental justice issues and works to create healthy, livable communities for all.

 

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DC’s Urban Forest

Trees help with reduction of storm water and watershed issues, heating and cooling of areas (e.g. the urban heat island effect), improve the quality of the air and the overall aesthetics of the environment.

The District of Columbia has addressed a study that suggested a decline in the District’s tree canopy by offering several programs for its citizens to become involved in the re-planting of its neighborhoods. Some of these programs include a Water-by-Cycle program, which uses bikes to water trees in difficult to navigate areas, a Summer Crew program, which takes 10 high school students every summer to weed, water and mulch trees in the hopes of improving their chances of survival in the critical early stages of growth. As a result of the effort since 2002 the district has installed 350,000 square feet of green roofs.

DDOT Urban Forestry Administration has been doing great work in tracking its progress to restore the District’s urban tree canopy. They recently won a GIS award from ESRI for their use of the the ArcGIS platform to improve street tree management.

Recently, New York City has taken on an initiative, MillionTrees NYC, to plant and care for one million new trees across the City’s five boroughs over the next decade. MillionTrees NYC is a public-private program aimed at increasing NYC’s urban forest by 20% so that the residents may benefit from the environmental impacts that trees provide.

The District and New York City are not alone in this initiative. Americanforest.org lists the 10 Best Cities for urban forests as: Austin, Charlotte, Denver, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, New York, Portland, Sacramento, Seattle, Washington, D.C.

These initiatives are important because urban forests are critical to the impact of our environment. What are steps your city is taking to improve its urban forest and how are you helping?

Narom Lous is a civil engineering graduate of the Florida State University. He is a member of the National Society of Black Engineers’ Environmental Special Interest Group.





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