For her blog, Be Green, Rachel sat down with Dean to interview him about the Yadkin River, water conservation and river preservation.
Rachel is a fifth grader at The Downtown School in Winston-Salem. Apart from keeping up with her blog, she enjoys animals, nature, and crafting. The following interview was transcribed from an audio recording.
How do you feel about global warming? Well, global warming is a huge concern. I think water is going to define the 21st century; particularly the first half, the second half will be defined by global warming. It's an impact that, I think is going to affect every single person on this planet and unfortunately we just don't have enough political commitment and political will to really address this issue to begin phasing out coal-fired power plants which are a major contributor of global warming greenhouse gasses.
What do you do as the Yadkin Riverkeeper? My job as the Yadkin Riverkeeper is to serve as a voice for the river, work to enforce environmental laws and regulations, and work with citizens on clean water issues to ensure sustainable development practices that will ensure clean water for future generations.
What's important for people to know about the Yadkin River? Well, I think first off, the river basin itself, the Yadkin Pee-Dee River, is over 18,000 square miles. It's the second largest river flowing to the Atlantic Ocean. It's one of the most important water resources on the planet. And, it is the lifeblood of this region and all the communities that live in this river basin that depend on clean drinking water. Without it, we just really wouldn't have water, but we also wouldn't have economic development and the type of economic prosperity we've had. I think that most people take it for granted; it's all tied back to the river. The river is just a really beautiful river, and it's often overlooked. A lot of people go up to the New River and the Dan River to recreate, and drive right over the Yadkin not thinking about the opportunities there. But I've paddled the whole thing three times now, and it's an absolutely beautiful river that people would really enjoy getting out on, and I think we need to do a better job of promoting eco-tourism opportunities that are on the river.
What are some of the threats to the Yadkin River? That's a good question. Some of the threats are... we have a lot of agriculture runoff [from] development practices that are causing sediment. Sediment pollution is the number one water pollution problem in the Yadkin River and across the State of North Carolina. It carries a lot of nutrients like fecal bacteria and phosphorous which causes algae blooms and fish kills... Additionally we have over 600 wastewater dischargers, industry and municipalities that discharge their waste-effluent into the river, and the river itself has about 150 million gallons a day of wastewater sewage and industrial effluent that is discharged into it. That's a big impact on the river. A lot of runoff from fertilizers, not only from agricultural industries but also from use on lawns and gardens, is a huge problem for the river. And then there's storm water runoff, which most people don't think about. But all of these impervious surfaces, parking lots and rooftops, don't allow the water to infiltrate into the ground and recharge ground water. Rather, it runs off very quickly and carries a lot of pollutants like animal waste, anti-freeze, oil, gasoline, and fertilizers. And the more roads we build, the more houses that we build, the more impervious surfaces we have, impact water quality. So, those are the major threats: the dischargers, runoff from agriculture and development practices, and certainly other sources of pollutants as well, but those are the primary culprits.
What can we do to help the Yadkin River? That’s another great question. On Yadkin Riverkeeper website, at www.yadkinriverkeeper.org, we have a link to “50 things you can do to protect the Yadkin River”. So people can go there, there’s a whole list of things. But, getting involved and raising awareness about the river, is the main thing, so signing up for our list-serve, or becoming a member and getting involved with the Yadkin Riverkeeper, because, we are the one organization that’s driving a lot of the clean water issues, actually all of the clean water issues in the Yadkin River Basin. People need to tell their elected officials that clean water is very important to them and demand to know what they are doing to ensure clean water for future generations. We need citizens to really pin our elected officials down and really ask of them what is it they are doing to benefit the Yadkin River and ensuring clean water for future generations.
There’s a lot of other things people can do, you know like: turning off the water when they’re brushing their teeth, or not taking long showers to conserve water, people can wash their cars in the yard as opposed to on the driveway so all that foam and suds and nutrients aren’t washing off down into our storm-drains and going into the river; rather it’s being absorbed into the ground. There’s a lot of other things people can do, making sure you’re not dumping any oil or anything like that into storm-drains. You know, just making sure that we’re being good stewards and trying to conserve water the best we can and manage water more appropriately. And you know again, if people go to our website there’s about 50 things that people can do to protect clean water in the Yadkin River Basin.
Where does the Yadkin River start, and where does it end? The Yadkin River starts all the way up in the mountains in Blowing Rock, NC. There’s a little spring that flows out of a parking lot off of 321, in Blowing Rock. And then it runs down the side of the mountain and all these other little tributaries flow into it, and eventually it flows into Kerr Scott Lake, which is basically Winston Salem’s drinking water. The river then flows Northeast, it takes a big turn at East Bend, NC, and then winds its way down past Winston-Salem through Forsyth, Davidson and Davie County down into Rowan County, and into High Rock Lake, down to Badin Lake, into Lake Tillery, and down into South Carolina where it becomes the Pee Dee River. And then the Pee Dee river flows down to Winyah Bay in Georgetown, SC right above Myrtle Beach; encompassing over 18,000 square miles.
Are there Riverkeepers for any other rivers? Yeah, as the Yadkin Riverkeeper, we had to obtain a license from Waterkeeper Alliance, and Waterkeeper Alliance is an international organization that licenses about 200 waterkeeper programs. We have nine Riverkeepers in North Carolina. We have 115 Riverkeeper/Soundkeeper/Baykeeper programs throughout the United States. We have Waterkeeper programs in Canada, Latin America, South America, Australia, Africa, China and Iraq; so this is a worldwide movement; a global movement committed to ensuring fishable, swimmable, drinkable water so that kids like you and future generations have access to clean, healthy, drinking-water, which is the most basic, fundamental human right.
How big is the Yadkin River? Well the Yadkin River, as I said, is about 18,000 square miles. It travels, probably over almost 400 miles from Kerr Scott Lake down to Winyah Bay - Georgetown, SC.
That’s about all the questions I have. Thanks Dean!
Rachel Franklin, writing for her blog Be Green