Potomac Leads Most Endangered Rivers List
By John Cronin
The Potomac River topped the list of most endangered rivers in the nation, published by American Rivers on April 15. The Potomac’s condition epitomizes the struggle for success in which the 1972 Clean Water Act is still engaged on its 40th anniversary. Flowing through the heart of Washington DC just two miles from Capitol Hill, a source of drinking water for Congress, the Potomac has been the shame of the nation since at least 1965, when President Lyndon Johnson declared it “a national disgrace.”
A 2010 evaluation of the Potomac River by the University of Maryland gave the river a “D” as part of its overall evaluation of the Chesapeake Bay system, which earned a “C-”. There is no indication that the river’s quality has improved since. The Potomac’s headwaters are in Fairfax Stone, West Virginia. From there it runs 383 miles to Point Lookout, Maryland. Its watershed encompasses 14,670 square miles, and also includes Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
American Rivers describes the Potomac’s condition:
The Potomac is the ‘nation’s river,’ rich in culture and history and the lifeblood of our nation’s capital. The river provides drinking water to more than five million people and offers abundant opportunities for recreation. However, the Potomac is threatened by agricultural and urban pollution . . .Pollution in the Potomac threatens drinking water supplies, kills fish, and poses a health risk to people who swim, fish, and boat on the river.
American Rivers gets it right when it says that rollbacks to the Clean Water Act will make matters worse on the Potomac and other waters. But does that mean the law as currently written has the right stuff to “restore and maintain the chemical, physical and biological integrity of the nation’s waters,” as Section 101 of the Act aspires to do? => More…
Lack of Innovation Takes Center Stage
By John Cronin
The global water crisis may destabilize nations important to national security, according to an Intelligence Community Assessment recently released by the United States Office of the Director of National Intelligence. From the report:
We assess that during the next 10 years, water problems will contribute to instability in states important to US national security interests. Water shortages, poor water quality, and floods by themselves are unlikely to result in state failure. However, water problems—when combined with poverty, social tensions, environmental degradation, ineffectual leadership, and weak political institutions—contribute to social disruptions that can result in state failure.
Citing “a well-established pattern of water problems aggravating regional tensions,” the authors express “high confidence in our judgments.” In language disturbing and frank they write that lack of sanitation, spread of water-borne disease, climate change, poverty-induced flight to cities, conflicting water and energy interests, and water as political leverage will combine to exacerbate an already precarious global water situation.
The report paints a dismal picture of the current state of water innovation:
We assess that from now through 2040 water shortages and pollution probably will harm the economic performance of important trading partners . . . Demand for water to support all forms of electricity production and industrial processes is increasing. We have moderate-to-high confidence in our judgment as we see no breakthrough technology that will reduce the industrial demand for water. => More…
By John Cronin
Author Kurt Vonnegut mercilessly lampooned General Electric in his 1952 novel Player Piano. The story’s antagonist was the Ilium Works in Ilium, New York on the Iroquois River, Vonnegut’s stand-in for the GE factory in Schenectady on the Mohawk, where he once worked. The Ilium Works was corporate America run amok in a post World War III, automated nation. It manufactured vacuum tubes, the now-quaint forerunner of microchips and nanotech. The spread of vacuum tubes by the Ilium Works dehumanized society and caused a commensurate spread of drug addiction, alcoholism and crime.
The reputation of the real GE fares little better with today’s environmentalists. In New York’s Hudson River Valley, home of The Blue Times, the company has been a punching bag for almost four decades. Its discharges of polychlorinated biphenyls into the river, which began in 1947 and ended in 1977, caused the Hudson to be declared a federal Superfund site. GE is conducting an EPA-supervised remedial dredging of the upper river, a clean-up that has received widespread praise as one of the most ambitious, and sophisticated, ever undertaken. But GE bashing is still a popular sport on the Hudson, and this old habit is dying too hard. 21st century environmentalism needs companies like GE, and for more than environmental clean-ups. => More…