Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Diving into 2021’s water reporting

It’s 2021, and there’s lots to do.

I’ll keep investigating waters of the Adirondacks. Stories about what’s still wild, about what has been changed, and about what is at risk of ruin.

Water? That seems niche, one might say. But water is everywhere — and where it isn’t is also a story.

All of our greatest stories involve water. The baffling story about the punishment of Moses for bringing it out of a rock. The story about the reflective trap of Narcissus. Native American stories that focus on the turtle, straddler of water and land.

So many tragedies, too, involve water: Dam breaks, floods, droughts and the famines that follow.

So, as I meet more people for more stories this year and they ask what I focus on, when I say “water,” that isn’t a limit — it’s just the beginning.

To be more concrete, my editor, Brandon Loomis, previewed some of the stories, many water-related, that we’ll follow and take on in the coming year:

Dams: They provide carbon-free energy, but they also bottle up rivers and can ruin them for fish. Aging dams are a major problem and dam safety records are often shrouded in mystery because of homeland security concerns. Unsafe dams pose a danger and impose costs on communities and we need to talk more about that, as well as their benefits, which help make power here so inexpensive.

Septic tanks: Leaking septics are a widely known but poorly understood contributor to algal blooms and unsafe water. Around Lake George, state officials have largely thrown up their hands trying to deal with this long-known pollution source, allowing sewage to leak into the lake, which had its first major documented algal bloom in 2020.

Warming: Climate change is shaping and reshaping the world. How are the Adirondacks changing? What will our future winters – and winter economies – look like? How are they changing already?

And, he said, “We’re not done with road salt, either. Having spent much of 2020 chronicling the scourge and the state’s history of avoiding responsibility, next year will likely be about looking ahead. Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently signed a bill authorizing study and prioritization of road salt reduction, and we’ll follow where that leads.”

This post first appeared in Ry’s weekly “Water Line” newsletter. Click here to sign up.

Diver hand-harvesting Eurasian watermilfoil, courtesy Darien Freshwater Institute/Almanack file photo


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Ry is a reporter who covered water-quality issues for the Explorer.


One Response

  1. Bill Ott says:

    As we look for life in the universe, we look for water. On earth, life does not exist without water, but it seems water on earth does not exist without life within it, even in the most extreme conditions.

    Intelligent life on earth may end because of war, disease, or a cosmic calamity.

    There must be water in other parts of the universe, so there may be life we have not heard from since it has either not evolved to our level, or ceased because of war, disease, or cosmic destruction.

    I really appreciate Melissa Hart and the editorial staff allowing us to ramble.

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