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If This Isn't Another Reason to Increase Organic Acreage, I Don't Know What Is

Posted Oct 21 2008 12:13am

Ahhh, water. That's a sight for sore eyes, as the drought marches on here, day in, day out. I have about two more weeks of being able to water my kitchen garden with the hose (my rainbarrel is long empty) before Atlanta is scheduled to put even stricter watering regulations into place (watering food gardens is currently allowed).

Lake Lanier, where we get our water, is at an 11-year-low and even with a return to normal rainfall, it would take the lake three years to recover. The states of Georgia, Alabama and Florida continue to slug it out over water rights and the release of water downstream from dams. Governor Sonny Purdue, recognizing that rainfall (the one real solution) is out of our control, has called for a prayer service at the Capitol in downtown Atlanta next Tuesday at 11:45 a.m. on the Washington Street side of the statehouse.

This whole experience drives home just how important it is to know your watershed, and what affects it (click here for a nice visual that explains what a watershed is). My watershed is the Upper Chattahoochee watershed, which is the most heavily used water resource in Georgia. The Chattahoochee River starts as a cold-mountain stream in the Blue Ridge mountains (its headwaters are the smallest of any metropolitan area in the United States) and ends 430 miles south where it joins the Flint River at Lake Seminole and the Florida border. According to the Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper's website:

Although most of the ACF Basin has been altered by human activities, the basin’s environment is noteworthy for its remaining biological diversity and the role it plays in sustaining biological productivity in Apalachicola Bay. The Basin is home to the largest number of fish species among Gulf Coast drainages east of the Mississippi River.

Waterkeepers, by the way, advocate and secure the protection and stewardship of their watersheds. There are 156 Waterkeeper organizations on six continents. Find your closest Waterkeeper organization here.

For those in the United States, the EPA has a handy way to "surf your watershed." Click here, enter your zip code, and find out:

* Citizen groups at work in your watershed
* Environmental websites involving your watershed
* Assessments of watershed health (how can you not click on the link that says "Impaired water for this watershed"?)
* Stream flow, science in your watershed, water use data, and more.

It appears 69% of the waters in my watershed have fecal coliform pollutants (data is from 2002, however). That clearly requires further investigation! (I'll report back on that in the future).

By the way, almost 60% of water use in the state of Georgia is for agricultural purposes. Organic farming improves soil conditions, increases water retention, and reduces water runoff. State Agriculture Commissioner Tommy Irvin, if this isn't another reason to increase organic acreage in the state of Georgia, I don't know what is.

FYI, here are some other FoodShed Planet posts about watersheds, including my very first post that kicked off this blog a year and a half ago.
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