Saving Freshwater Wildlife: Frogs, Fish & Chemicals

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Salmon Spawning

Whenever we experience an ecological disaster, like when the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded and sent crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico for three months, the media focuses on the effects of pollution on fish and animals.

But, it’s a fact that many freshwater streams, rivers and lakes are being polluted everyday, albeit in less dramatic and photogenic ways. While few of us will ever take a spot on a volunteer cleanup crew after a huge disaster, there are many ways we can work to eliminate water pollution.

First let’s get a sense of the problem. If you’re older, you may have noticed fewer frogs serenading during the evening hours. Biologists have documented a severe loss of frogs, toads and salamanders all around the world. This is linked directly to water pollution.

Nutrient pollution is one of the heavy hitters when it comes to water pollution. This is when nitrates and nitrites run into the water and cause an explosion of toxic algae. This gets into the food chain and causes problems all down the line.

Acid rain, often caused by coal burning industries, lowers the pH level of fresh water and causes death and deformities in amphibians and other wildlife.

A wide range or industrial and household chemicals are known to upset the freshwater ecosystems. Some are labelled “persistent organic pollutants,” because they don’t breakdown easily in nature. These include many solvents, pesticides and various pharmaceuticals. Mercury is another major problem in our lakes and streams.

If you’ve read these highlights fairly carefully, you may have noticed that you’ve used some of these chemicals from time to time. If so, that’s good because it means there are things you can do personally to help alleviate water pollution.

1. Chemical NON-Applications

Don’t overuse fertilizers and pesticides or better yet, stick with organic and natural horticultural techniques. Overuse leads to runoff and that sends your nitrogen-based fertilizer into the water shed and contributes to the algae problem. Be careful when you apply fertilizers. Fertilizing your lawn right before a thunderstorm will send the chemical straight into your watershed. Also, do dense plantings to reduce runoff.

2. Pharmaceuticals Don’t Fade

Don’t flush medicines or chemicals down the drain. Check labels to find the proper ways to dispose of chemicals and medicines. You garbage service or local environmental agency probably has drop off points or occasional collection programs. Give them a call of check their websites.

3. The Well-Being of Water

Don’t leave taps running in your home and use low flush toilets. When more water gets into the sewer system, it increases the load at your local water treatment plant. Conversely, less water requires less treatment.

4. Use Green to Clean

There are excellent natural, nontoxic and biodegradable cleaning and personal care products available today. Read labels in the stores and search the Internet for good sources. Talk to your friends and check out some online reviews to find the best products.

5. Don’t Leave A Trace

This seems like a no-brainer, but have you washed your car outside and let the water run down the storm drain? Most of us have. Use a carwash that recycles its water. Watch wrappers and plastics when you’re on a family picnic by the lake. Be proactive. When you find garbage, pick it up and dispose of it properly.

If all of us, on personal, business and corporate levels, pitch in and follow these guidelines, the next generation should be enjoying evenings outside with more frogs harmonizing in the background.