White River

The White River, as seen from North White River Parkway Drive (Photo/Tyler Fenwick) 

April 22 will mark the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, a time to appreciate the life that our planet provides us and to reflect on the way we treat our home. As we persevere through the current global health crisis, let us use this time to get back to basics. What do we really need to thrive on Earth? Food, shelter… and water.

Pre-pandemic, April was to be a full month of waterway and partner events, opportunities to get together and improve our waterway environments in celebration of Earth Month. In-person events are no longer possible, but many of our partners are practicing social distancing and turning to virtual “gatherings” and “events” to reinforce the special connection between humans and the planet that sustains us. Water, particularly, underlies every single process on Earth. It is a crucial part of any sustainable future for ourselves and our precious home.

Water is Everything*

Everything from growing to processing and preparing food requires water. Day-to-day tasks like washing dishes and laundry, bathing and flushing our toilets requires water. We even use water to maintain our yards. Average daily indoor water use in the U.S. is around 60 gallons per person per day. Outdoor water use can be up to 60% of total household water usage as residents water lawns and wash cars. The water footprint of one hamburger is about 660 gallons and a cup of coffee 34 gallons. Energy production alone accounts for about 133 billion gallons of water per day.

During the past two months, we have been reminded about just how critical it is to have access to clean water. Not just for drinking (though water fulfills the ultimate human need for hydration and nourishment). But we have never been reminded more about just how key hand washing with water is to reducing risks of illness. We have all had a re-education of how to wash our hands and been told that while hand sanitizers offer some cleansing properties, it is that 20-second time period when we are actually washing with soap and water that we significantly reduce the spread of germs and viruses. Whether you sing “Happy Birthday” or “Row, row, row your boat,” handwashing has become the number one mantra of this virus and creates a renewed sense of why water is so important. It also shows that access to clean water is a basic need for our neighborhoods, with local charities and utility companies working to ensure no one goes without water during this challenging time. 

Celebrating Earth Day this year gives us a particularly meaningful opportunity to acknowledge that life-giving, life-saving water, and the waterways from which it comes. We’re reminded that the very water we drink that comes from our faucets is impacted by those things that we do in our homes, yards, work and congregations that can either help clean it up and conserve it or contribute to pollution and waste it. Our waterways and the care we give them are critical to the health and wellbeing of our friends, families and neighbors.

If you or your neighbors need assistance in securing basic needs during the time of shelter-in-place, like access to water, contact local organizations such as:

• Citizens Energy Group (CEG), our local water and sewer utility, is suspending disconnections due to non-payment, and reconnecting those who have been disconnected. Contact CEG at 317-924-3311 or online.

• United Way of Central Indiana, working with Lilly Endowment, Central Indiana Community Foundation, Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust and others, has set up an emergency fund to help community members with basic needs of utilities, food, rent and more. Learn more about the COVID-19 Community Response and Recovery Fund at 211 or online

Practicing Solidarity and Gratitude

As we stay home and practice social distancing to maintain healthy communities, Earth may be taking some respite from the disruptions our regular human activities cause. If your basic needs are met, this could be a time to spend connecting to nature, finding activities on your own or with family. Here’s a few ideas:

• Discover the hidden worlds in your own backyard with the kids as part of their learning day and contribute to urban biodiversity data through iNaturalist.

• Seek out open, sparsely populated outdoor spaces near our waterways to explore like the bird sanctuary in Spades Park along Pogue’s Run.

• Pause to take a deep breath and appreciate a quiet spot along Pleasant Run at Barth Avenue or Spruce Bridge.

• Pick up a good book and sit along the Central Canal.

• Take your pup for a walk on the Urban Wilderness Trail along the White River.

• Grab a trash bag and plog (jog and pick up trash) along Fall Creek.

During these trying times, nature can help heal our bodies and our souls. Our waterways can be a source for making the days pass more easily, connecting to our natural world, as well as a means for getting out and staying active and healthy. As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, Reconnecting to Our Waterways encourages everyone to take this opportunity to lift up your spirits by recharging and enjoying the beauty and wonder of our natural waterway spaces.  

Stay in the know with ROW by contacting info@ourwaterways.org or joining us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

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