Our rivers, lakes, and beaches are beautiful, but are they safe? Every day, the toxic runoff from parking lots, busy roads and quiet subdivisions makes its way into our streams and oceans. Even the oil burning off from cars on the roads gets washed into the groundwater and streams by way of the storm drain every time it rains.
The more houses we build, the more pollution we will add to our environment. Every time we lay down a new parking lot or piece of roadway, there is an impact on our environment.
Planning growth and designing communities are part of the local government's job. If you are curious about what changes are about to happen where you live, start reading the local news sources, and save stories about development. If something concerns you, you can contact your officials to let them know how you feel. At home, there are things you and your family can do to cut back on water pollution in your neighborhood:
- Don't litter. Trash that is thrown in the streets usually winds up down storm drains.
- Watch those sprinklers. Place water sprinklers so they water the grass or flowers and not the street or sidewalk. Also, don't water on windy days or in the hottest part of the day so more water will be absorbed by plants and less will be wasted by the wind and the sun.
- About fertilizers: they are good for the garden, but too much of a good thing can hurt the environment by causing algae bloom. Check with a garden store to find out how much fertilizer your soil needs and consider using organic fertilizers.
- Compost your grass clippings to make natural fertilizer or leave it on the lawn as a source of nutrients.
Learn more about how to conserve our water in the library and online.
In the Library
Acid Rain by Louise Petheram.
Read how air pollution from cars, trucks, and power plants leads to the formation of strong acids which can harm lakes, fish, trees, and even historic buildings.
Garbage Helps Our Garden Grow: A Compost Story by Linda Glaser.
See how you and your family can turn many things you might throw away into compost to help plants grow.
Nobody Particular: One Woman's Fight to Save the Bays by Molly Bang.
Diane Wilson worked a shrimp boat off the coast of Texas and led the fight to stop yet another plastics plant coming in to pollute the bay with more industrial runoff.
Our Endangered Planet. Oceans. by Mary Hoff and Mary M. Rodgers.
Describes concisely the global uses and abuses of the world's oceans and seas.
Water: Our Precious Resource by Roy A. Gallant.
An in-depth look at Earth's waters and mankind's uses of water throughout history which includes ideas about planning better use of this critical resource in the future.
On the Web
Clean Water Program: Just for Kids
Learn about all the ways that our creeks and beaches get polluted. From the City of Oceanside, California.
EO Kids: Fresh Water
The premier issue of EO Kids explores how NASA observes and measures fresh water from space. From NASA's Earth Observatory (EO).
Friends of the Rappahannock
Our Rappahannock River needs all the help it can get. The Friends sponsor activities such as river clean-ups and scenic trips, both by foot and by canoe. Click Events to find out what's going on.
Surf Your Watershed
"Watersheds are those land areas that catch rain or snow and drain to specific marshes, streams, rivers, lakes, or to ground water."
Type in your zip code to get terrific information about what's being done to protect your region.
USGS Water Science School
Useful study materials on the water cycle, groundwater, water quality, surface water, and more.
What's Flushing Into Chesapeake Bay?
Zoom in on a map of the Chesapeake that shows urban, agricultural, forested and wetland areas that affect the health of the Chesapeake Bay. From the National Geographic Society.
Where Does Your Water Shed?
The National Association of Conservation Districts has prepared helpful lesson plans and activities for early and upper elementary students to aid them in learning about what happens to the water they use.
Families who have Central Rappahannock Regional Library cards can use our online databases of magazine articles and reference books for more information. These databases may be especially useful: Kids InfoBits, Gale Student Edition, and Encyclopaedia Britannica Kids.
The River Thames
From Source to Sea
The River Thames is the cleanest river in the world that flows through a major city. This is a major feat considering that fifty years ago the river was so polluted that it was declared biologically dead.
From 1830 to 1860 tens of thousands of people died of cholera as a result of the pollution in the Thames. Sewage was being discharged directly into the Thames. Despite the foul smell, people continued to wash and bathe and drink from the river.
In 1855, a letter from Michael Faraday in The Times newspaper, London, described the polluted state of the River Thames he had observed on a boat trip:
"The whole of the river was an opaque pale brown fluid. ....... surely the river which flows for so many miles through London ought not to be allowed to become a fermenting sewer."
A few years later the curtains in the Houses of Parliament had to be soaked in lime to stop the odours (bad smells) from preventing government from carrying on.
In 1878 the pleasure steamship Princess Alice sunk in a river collision. Most of the 600 or so passengers who died did not die from drowning, they died because of the pollution in the river.
Dickens, in his novels described the Thames as 'a dank, stinking sludge, the scene of murders and crime'.
A major enterprise during the Victorian period was building the Thames embankments in 1861, under the direction of Sir Joseph Bazalgette. Built over formerly tidal foreshores, these narrowed the river and speeded its rate of flow, enabling it to become a more efficient remover of the increasing tons of rubbish thrown into the river. At the same time, the embankments allowed for the building of riverside roads and walkways raised above, and effectively concealed the huge pipes that carried the newly created sewage services and water mains.
It was decided that 'Treatment plants' should be built to clean the water from the Thames before it was pumped to homes. The treatment plants also cleaned dirty water from homes before it went back into the Thames. Not only did the people's health improve but also the water in the Thames became cleaner.
During the Second World War (1939 - 45) many treatment plants were damaged by German bombs. A lot of dirty water went into the Thames and killed the plants and fish living in it.
New treatments plants were built in the 1950s. In the 1960s new laws were made to stop factories letting their dirty water go into the river.
Today more than half of London's sewage sludge is sold in pellet form as fertilizer for agricultural use.
Photograph shows bottles and other items of rubbish laying by the banks of the Thames near London.
National Geographical News - Nature returns to the Thames
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All the materials on these pages are free for homework and classroom use only. You may not redistribute, sell or place the content of this page on any other website or blog without written permission from the author Mandy Barrow.