Tag Archives: conservation

Local Efforts Make the Difference for Water Conservation

by Ariel Maiorano

Remember the drought of 2016? Wells went dry, and reservoirs dropped precipitously low. The second-largest city in New England, Worcester, ran so low on water that they had to tap into additional sources (to the tune of over $1 million). Unfortunately, droughts are becoming increasingly more frequent and extreme, especially as our climate changes. Even though Massachusetts receives 15% more water annually compared to averages in the early 20th century, that precipitation now arrives in heavy bursts followed by prolonged dry spells. These dry times have enormous implications for municipal drinking water supplies. Luckily, there’s a lot we can do to protect those supplies, some of which is extremely low cost.

In a local letter to the editor published earlier this month in the Sharon Advocate , resident and town Water Conservation Estimator Paul Lauenstein shared  that the Town of Sharon reduced their annual water consumption to the lowest it’s been since 1984 thanks to public education and outreach. You can find the text of Lauenstein’s letter here.

Overall, the town of about 18,000 has reduced public well water pumping by one-third since its peak in the mid-1990s, from upwards of 600 million gallons to below 400 million gallons. Below is a figure from the town’s 2016 Water Quality Report, detailing the decrease in water usage since the 1995 spike.

Source: Water Quality Report for 2016, Town of Sharon

Lauenstein’s letter attributes Sharon’s success to adopting policies like rebates for resource-efficient appliances, and incorporating environmental education into public school curricula to shift local practices. The town Water Department also prioritized leak repairs and included reminders to reduce consumptions in water bills.  By taking low-cost and common-sense approaches to water conservation, the town successfully and significantly reduced community-wide water usage.

Water conservation offers a broad range of benefits, including improved public health, cost savings, resource availability, ecosystem value, and well-being of wildlife.  Sufficient water supplies are critical to communities throughout the Commonwealth that pump locally-sourced groundwater to meet the needs of their populations.

One of the many benefits of conservation listed by Lauenstein is the preservation of Atlantic White Cedar Swamp. This rare habitat not only provides spectacular habitat for local species and recreational benefits from wildlife watching, but it also provides the service of filtering and purifying water on-site that is later pumped by local wells. By conserving water to keep this resource healthy, Sharon is letting nature work for them and allowing the ecosystems to purify water so that built infrastructure doesn’t have to.  “Green infrastructure” exists in every community and by prioritizing its protection, communities can improve their bottom line as well as enjoy co-benefits like  flood reduction and improved climate resilience.

Conserving wetlands, which naturally absorb floodwater, is one way to reap the benefits of “green infrastructure.” Photo credit: USFWS

Mass Audubon’s Shaping the  Future of Your Community Program encourages communities across the Commonwealth to identify naturally-occurring  green infrastructure in their own towns, and to take steps to conserve it. Check out our five-part guide that introduces you to what green infrastructure is, how to protect it, and how to re-incorporate it in already-developed areas. Ready to take the next step? Learn how to update your local bylaws and regulations to encourage these types of nature-based solutions.

Whether your community is conserving landscapes like Atlantic White Cedar Swamp, or is looking for more cost-effective ways to manage local water, we can follow the Town of Sharon’s common sense approach.

Ariel Maiorano is Mass Audubon’s Assistant Coordinator for the Shaping the Future of Your Community Program

The Intern Intel Report #2: Summer 2017 Edition

Hello!  My name is Helen Moore and I am a new Conservation Policy Intern at Mass Audubon.  I am currently a senior at Marietta College majoring in English and minoring in Advertising and Public Relations.  While I study in Ohio, I am a New Englander at heart, having been raised in Connecticut and spending summers in Maine.  Throughout my life, I have spent large quantities of time on bodies of water; whether it’s a lake, river, or ocean, I have developed a familiarity and connection with the aquatic environment.

Up to now, I have experience with environmental cleanups in Connecticut, Ohio, and Maine.  When I joined my high school rowing team, the coaching staff and rowers had a tradition: the annual river cleanup day, where we cleaned the river we rowed on for 3-4 hours.  I then continued rowing for Marietta College, where we also dedicated hours to cleaning up the Muskingum River.  During the summers I live on Little Sebago Lake, Maine, and became involved with The Little Sebago Lake Association.  The organization primarily concentrates on the removal of the non-native, invasive plant called milfoil.  Growing up on this lake, I did not know of the environmental health hazards lying under the surface until this experience exposed me to the importance of maintaining certain species entering and exiting bodies of water.  I am reminded from Mass Audubon’s land and coastal preservation that it is important to manage invasive species so native species can flourish.

During this last year of school I plan to continue working toward my degree and hope to participate in more environmental cleanups, as well helping maintain conservation for land and waterways.  I want to further educate myself in public relations to help organizations such as Mass Audubon increase public awareness and engagement.  Over the course of this internship, I will be writing several blogs to document my experience learning about environmental advocacy and preservation.  I hope you will join me on this journey.

The Intern Intel Report #1: Summer 2017 Edition

Hello, my name is Yaelle Sarid-Segal and I’m a new Conservation Policy Intern at Mass Audubon. I study Biology with a specialization in Ecology and Conservation with a minor in Sociology and Marine Science at Boston University. I’m particularly interested in the intersection between conservation and human rights along with poverty-driven poaching, so I’m fortunate to have the opportunity to learn more about the process of advocacy work and governmental affairs.

Prior to starting school, I interned at MASSPIRG while they advocated for the Bottle Bill, which unfortunately failed due to industry pressure. At university, I worked as a volunteer in a lab that studied carbon cycling and climate change’s effect on Eastern forests. I have volunteered in West Virginia in building affordable housing that aims to be sustainable while controlling costs. Trying to gain a greater understanding of human rights, I’ve worked for the past four years at AIDS Action Committee in Cambridge. This experience has exposed me to the inequities in healthcare experience by those living in poverty, particularly with a chronic illness; I’ve also learned about the complexities of the system related to affordable housing — the lack of availability, the high costs, and the resistance of legislators and communities in assuring that all people have a roof over their head. Seeing the work Mass Audubon does with the Community Preservation Coalition to utilize spaces to create affordable houses and parks that benefit the community is an important reminder that environmental preservation is directly related to poverty and health.

Yaelle Sarid-Segal

I look forward to the fall, where I will be part of a Marine Program through BU; not only will I be engaged in Coral Reef Restoration in Belize, but I will also take part in field studies that measure population statistics of threatened species off the Gulf of Maine, the physical evolution of the shoreline at Plum Island (part of the national Long Term Ecological Network), how nutrient loading from human activity impacts the biogeochemistry of the marine environment, and how urban development effects marine ecology.

After graduation, I hope to begin working on the relationship between modern slavery and environmental degradation, combining what I’ve learned to advocate for human rights in biodiversity hot spots. Over the course of this internship, I will write several blogs to document Mass Audubon’s work to strengthen environmental laws. I look forward to this experience, and I hope you too will learn about conservation legislation.

Yaelle Sarid-Segal is Mass Audubon’s Summer 2017 Conservation Policy intern.