Water works: Never more important

Thinking about water can feel overwhelming. Most Americans personally worry “a great deal” about pollution in their drinking water, rivers and lakes.

By Andrew Szwak January 21

Globally, reported flood events have increased181% since 1980 while sea levels are rising at more than one inch per decade. And that’s barely the tip of the metaphorical iceberg.

These facts and figures tell us that our society’s relationship with water has never been more important — or fragile. However, they also tell us that the role of conservation in our relationship to water is paramount. Our country’s “first national conservation goal” calls on land trusts, government agencies and other partners to permanently conserve 30% of all lands and waters by 2030. Efforts to protect globally significant waterbodies — such as the Chesapeake Bay and Great Lakes — incorporate aggressive land protection goals. Even private sector investments increasingly rely on land conservation to safeguard water supplies.

All this interest in the nexus between water and land conservation presents an opportunity for land trusts to position themselves as civic leaders. Land trusts are already working successfully with farmers to reduce water pollution, partnering with local governments to conserve flood prone properties and buffering coastal communities against sea level rise. They are also advocating tirelessly to improve water policy, expand wetlands and engage more stakeholders. Who better than land trusts to lead community efforts to improve, control and expand access to local water resources?

The Land Trust Alliance is committed to supporting our members and their supporters as we all explore new ways to be involved in water work. Our forthcoming Guide to Water Quality Protection and Restoration for Land Trusts will provide a starting point for land trusts to work on water. Our Land and Water Initiative, born in the Chesapeake Watershed, is expanding to the Great Lakes Basin. And the Alliance’s ongoing advocacy work on Capitol Hill will continue to promote water-conscious conservation.

For its part, this new blog series will showcase all the wonderful water work land trusts are doing. It will also be a place to share reflections about how water work and land conservation can be mutually reinforcing enterprises. I look forward to connecting with you over the coming months and invite you to share your ideas, stories and opinions with me at aszwak@lta.org. Cheers!