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Western Pennsylvania Conservancy



Supporting a “Water Ethic” in Western Pennsylvania

In her book Last Oasis: Facing Water Scarcity, Sandra Postel proposes that for many of us, water
simply flows from a faucet and we think very little about it beyond this point of contact. She suggests a collective need to develop a “water ethic” that would help us recognize our obligations to preserve the complex workings of watersheds and appreciate the webs of life they support. WPC’s Freshwater Conservation Program exists to support that principle.

In its eighth year, the Freshwater Conservation Program has worked to engage and support local communities, primarily through grassroots conservation groups, to improve short- and long-range water conservation practices. “The ultimate goal is clean drinking water,” said Nick Pinizzotto, senior director, Freshwater Conservation. “Demand for clean water rises every year. The efforts of communities to protect and clean up their streams is extremely important for future generations
in Western Pennsylvania.”

Some examples of how the Freshwater Conservation Program is working to improve the quality of water in Western Pennsylvania include:

Treatment of Abandoned Mine Drainage
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, drainage from thousands of coal mines that are no longer actively mined has contaminated more than 4,000 miles of streams and associated groundwaters in Pennsylvania and is the most extensive pollution problem affecting Pennsylvania’s major river basins. Because mine drainage can contain toxic concentrations of acidity, metals and sediment, many of the distinctively orange colored rivers are nearly “dead” or severely impaired. Degradation can leave streams with little or no plant or animal life, render them undrinkable and pose a threat to the health of neighboring communities.

WPC’s Freshwater Conservation Program works directly with grassroots watershed organizations
to restore streams that have been affected by acid mine drainage (AMD). The program has helped groups install more than 20 AMD treatment systems and has assisted with the assessment of more than 10,000 miles of impacted waterways.

Addressing Agricultural Issues
The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy is a leader in helping farmers protect the water resources that make their farms possible and are used by others downstream. Getting the word out about available federal and state funding opportunities that help farmers practice sound conservation
agriculture is just one of the tools WPC’s Freshwater Conservation program uses to help local farming communities improve their watersheds. Another is Nutrient Management Planning, a process in which WPC staff members develop customized plans to help farmers determine the
proper amounts and types of nutrients to apply to their crops to keep excess fertilizer from eroding into streams and ending up in our drinking water.

For more information on the work of our Freshwater Conservation Program, please contact Nick
Pinizzotto, senior director, at 724-459-0953, ext. 100 or e-mail npinizzotto@paconserve.org.