This blog post is the second of a three-part Swim, Drink, Fish series. The focus of this blog post is Drink.
It often surprises me how little we make the connection between watershed health and drinking water quality.
When we hear about local freshwater habitats being negatively impacted by pollution, what does this mean to us? If we hear about fish growing extra appendages, becoming sterile, or reaching sexual maturity early because of birth control in their ecosystem, do we think about what this means for the water we drink?
Often, if we think about it, it’s not frequently enough. I forget it sometimes, too – that the health of my watershed is the health of my drinking water.
Supporting healthy fish habitats supports healthy drinking water, enhances ecosystem health, and supports diverse wildlife populations.
Healthy habitats – ones that support fish and wildlife – correspond to healthy drinking water.
Nature’s figured out ways of cleaning and replenishing the water that we, and all species, need to survive. Forests, grasslands, and wetlands – in short, biodiverse natural habitats – do more than support fish, amphibians, reptiles, and insect populations. Their presence acts as a natural water filter, ensuring pollution in rainwater is scrubbed and the speed of water slowed before entering groundwater reserves. That newly cleaned groundwater becomes a resource that we rely on for agriculture, drinking water, industry, recreation, and more.
Contributing to projects dedicated to habitat restoration, forest protection, and wetland rehabilitation help ensure that nature’s water filters are protected and, indirectly, that the water you drink is safe everyday.
It’s easier to understand if you think of a visual example, like microplastics.
Recall that microplastics are buoyant in the water column, where they sit and attract toxins, before being consumed by some species, and move up the food chain.
In an ecosystem with high volumes of plastic pollution, we know that fish often carry high plastic loads. These fish may be consumed by a larger fish or bird, exposing it to plastic pollution. Or the tiny microplastics pass through drinking water filtration systems, and we drink it.