March 22 is World Water Day, an international day of focus on the importance of freshwater and advocating for its care. As an initiative of the United Nations, we often think of how people around the world lack clean drinking water and wastewater treatment. It’s also helpful for Indianapolis community members to better understand where our drinking water comes from and how each and every citizen can help protect our water and waterways.
Did you know that 60% of Indy’s drinking water comes from the White River?This is the same White River that runs from northern Indiana through towns and farmlands and cities, along factories and parking lots. The White River continues south of Indianapolis into the Ohio and Mississippi rivers and finally dumps into the Gulf of Mexico. When it rains, all the trash and chemicals and loose topsoil within the watershed washes into and pollutes that same river, affecting the health of the river and the wildlife that depend on it. We want to keep our river as clean as possible because it’s the very water that comes out of our faucets, that makes our morning coffee, hits us in the face in the shower, and that we boil to make our kid’s mac and cheese.
The watershed is made up of many smaller waterways that drain into the White River. Central Canal, Fall Creek, Little Eagle Creek, Pleasant Run and Pogue’s Run are all tributaries, or smaller waterways connected to the White River in Indy. This allows chemicals on lawns, pet waste, litter, cars that drip oil and other pollutants to make their way from yards and streets and parking lots, into storm drains, into tributary waterways, into our river and eventually into our oceans.
Reconnecting to Our Waterways (ROW) is a local collective impact initiative that works with neighborhoods across Indianapolis to engage residents with our waterways. Neighborhood volunteers along six Indianapolis waterways meet monthly and develop community-led workplans to connect neighbors with the waterway nearby, raise awareness about water, and take action to improve the waterways. ROW collectively strives to lift up community efforts, especially in communities of color and high poverty, since those are often where disinvestment and disenfranchisement have led to the most polluted and impacted waterways.
Bring the ideals of World Water Day to your own home, neighborhood, workplace or congregation. Find ways, big and small, to conserve water and clean up our waterways. Simple acts like planting native plants and trees, picking up pet waste, reducing chemicals on the lawn, cleaning up litter, clearing storm drains, can all make our waterways — the very water that comes out of our faucet (after treatment) — cleaner. Clean waterways also become spaces to gather family and friends for picnics, cookouts, walks, bike rides, fishing, waterside events and even on-water activities like canoeing, kayaking and rafting. Every one of us can make a difference this World Water Day and beyond. What positive action will you take?
Learn more about ways to get involved at www.ourwaterways.org. Take a pledge to do a small, positive action and see how it adds up at https://indiana.clearchoicescleanwater.org/ Organize a clean-up or tree planting at www.kibi.org.
About Reconnecting to Our Waterways
Reconnecting to Our Waterways (ROW) is a collective impact initiative that has worked purposefully since 2012 to change the quality of life and ecology along Indianapolis waterways and surrounding neighborhoods. ROW has been able to convene community partners to enhance quality of life through innovation, analysis, cultural advancement and investment along Indy waterways and neighborhoods. ROW focuses on six of Indianapolis’s main waterways: Fall Creek, Pogue’s Run, Pleasant Run, White River, Little Eagle Creek and the Central Canal. ROW has received generous financial support from a variety of sources, including the Central Indiana Community Foundation and the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust, which enabled ROW to build its capacity. For a schedule of upcoming waterway meetings or for more information, visit http://www.ourwaterways.org, Facebook.com/OurWaterways or Twitter @OurWaterways.
Julie L Rhodes is collective impact director of Reconnecting to Our Waterways.