Here in the U.S., water is something we take for granted: we turn on the tap or the shower and it’s always there. We cook with it, clean with it, cool an overheated radiator with it. Yet there is no safe water supply close to home for more than 663 million people in the world, and contaminated water causes some 842,000 deaths a year through preventable diseases such as cholera, dysentery, typhoid, and polio. And even in an era of recycling, reuse, and treatment, 80 percent of the world’s wastewater still continues to flow back into the ecosystem without being treated.
Disparity of clean-water access is why the annual observation of World Water Day – on March 22nd – is more important than ever. An inter-agency initiative coordinated by UN Water, the day is designed to motivate people to help solve a water crisis worsened by environmental degradation and climate change. This year’s theme, “Nature for Water,” focuses on harnessing the power of nature to address and conquer water challenges. As the official World Water Day website puts it:
Nature-based solutions have the potential to solve many of our water challenges. We need to do so much more with ‘green’ infrastructure and harmonize it with ‘grey’ infrastructure wherever possible. Planting new forests, reconnecting rivers to floodplains, and restoring wetlands will rebalance the water cycle and improve human health and livelihoods.
Water Preservation with the SCA
World Water Day is an important awareness-raising event, but preserving our world’s water needs to be much more than a one-day commitment. For that reason, the Student Conservation Association has made a decades-long commitment to conserving and cleaning waterways in the U.S. with student crews, internships, and partnerships with public agencies and other stakeholders. Here are just a few examples of our work:
- In the Big Cypress National Preserve in Florida’s Everglades, SCA crews worked together with the National Park Service to help restore freshwater flow by leveling roadways, refilling canals, and deconstructing buildings on land to be returned to nature. This allows the wetlands to heal themselves, returning to their original state as a “sea of grass,” helping to clean the water and prevent inland flooding.
- Also in conjunction with the National Park Service, SCA interns in the heart of the nation’s capital monitored the quality of ten streams along the George Washington Memorial Parkway that feed into the Potomac River – the city’s main supply of drinking water. During the 12-week program, interns tested for chlorine, phosphorus, and nitrates while searching for key environmental indicators in the form of dragonﬂies, freshwater clams, worms, and crayfish.
- At the Chilly Slough in Idaho, SCA volunteers teamed up with the Bureau of Land Management to preserve this unique, high-desert wetland that is home to some 134 species of birds alone. Volunteers removed a dilapidated electric fence that posed threats to wildlife, replacing it with a wildlife-friendly jackleg fence.
- In the teeming midst of New York City, the SCA has joined forces with the Natural Areas Conservancy to help preserve 10,000 acres of city parks, including wetlands and marshes that are fundamental parts of these delicate urban green areas. With SCA summer jobs, adolescents turn their idle hours into productive time spent restoring trails and laying new ones to allow park-goers to safely access these critical water resources.
Pitching in Through Summer Internships
It may take a village to raise a child, but it takes a global community to ensure continual access to clean water. Luckily, the SCA offers myriad opportunities to get involved in locations across the country – or even right around the corner. For a listing of summer internships, including roles as water quality and water safety interns, check out our positions page here.