Environment America Blog

Nothing to fear from clean water

By Russell Bassett
Clean Water Digital Campaigner

It’s Halloween, the annual time to celebrate all the creepy things that go bump in the night. Evil creatures of legend like vampires and werewolves can be frightening in a movie or while visiting a haunted house attraction, but they’re not what keep me up at night.

What really frightens me are the many very real threats to our waterways and drinking water. Nothing is more important to life than clean water, yet few things are taken more for granted. We turn on our taps or swim in a local lake without fear because we believe the systems are working to keep our water clean.

The fact is, those systems don’t always work, and in many cases, are failing to keep water safe.

So in honor of what’s really scary this Halloween, here’s a Top 10 list of scary water facts: 

     10) The headwaters of 40 percent of Western rivers are tainted with toxic discharge from abandoned mines. (source)
     9) One in 10 U.S. beaches are unsafe for swimming. (source)
     8) Microplastics are polluting inland waters and oceans. (source)
     7) Fracking, which is seeing an unprecedented boom, has been linked to the contamination of drinking water supplies. (source)
     6) Of assessed waterways in the U.S., 44 percent of stream miles, 64 percent of lake acres, and 30 percent of bays are not clean enough to support uses such as fishing and swimming. (source)
     5) Toxic algae blooms are increasing both in their severity and geographic range.  (source)
     4) Factory farms, which are responsible for much of the nation’s water quality problems, are exempt from the Clean Water Act. (source)
     3) Industrial facilities dumped 206 million pounds of toxic chemicals into American waterways in 2012. (source)
     2) Our water infrastructure, for both clean and wastewater, is aging and failing at an alarming rate. (source)
     1) Nearly one trillion gallons of raw human sewage flows into our waterways each year. (source)

As if all that wasn’t frightening enough, the Clean Water Rule — which is a big step forward to protect our water — is under attack both in the courts and in Congress. We have the opportunity to move forward on clean water, but polluters are trying to take us backwards.

Another thing I find scary is just how effective polluters are at using fear to attack the Clean Water Rule. If you believe their rhetoric, the rule will result in the largest land grab in history, with over-reaching federal agents busting down landowner doors to regulate puddles and ditches — destroying businesses, jobs, and local economies in the process. Their sky-is-falling hyperbole has proved incredibly effective, and the biggest victory for clean water in more than a decade is now on shaky footing largely due to their fear-mongering.

There is nothing to fear from clean water, but there is plenty to fear from taking clean water for granted. Nothing dispels fear like hope, and what makes me hopeful is knowing that there are millions of people in this country who value clean water and who are willing to fight for it. We have a lot of work to do as a nation to ensure our water is safe. Can we count on you to stand up and defend clean water against the many obstacles that threaten it?