Vol. 9, No. 50
December 13 - 19, 2001 
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Water, Water Everywhere …
by Frank L. Fox

But when you stop to think, perhaps we on the Western Shore of the Chesapeake Bay may soon not have enough to drink. Even though our aquifers, those large underground pools of water, hold a great amount, there is a limit to how much they can supply. Throughout the region, well-water levels have declined as demand overwhelms supply. And there is no quick fix. These aquifers take up to 8,000 years to recharge: Truly that’s fossil water.

Yet county leaders continue to push growth as the economic engine without much regard for sustainability and carrying capacity on these peninsulas. Where I live, the St. Mary’s County planning commission recently gave the green light for another 1,000 homes at Wicomico Shores on the Potomac River. Soon perhaps, 1,000 new families, probably 1,000 new school children, 2,000 more cars. Do they think the mighty old river’s endurance is endless?

All over this region, citizens are concerned as commissioners and councils allow our counties to operate on antiquated development rules that do not protect our unique natural resources. Rather than planning for the seventh generation as Native Americans have done, our leaders seem to believe that there’s no tomorrow. But don’t you imagine that sustainable growth and drinking water will be issues in the 2002 elections?

In addition to political action, people who care about our waters are reaching out to call attention to this source and sustenance of life, waters that not only quench our thirst but also provide places for recreation and habitat for other of God’s creatures.

Tom Wisner, ecologist and Bay balladeer, and Sara Ebenreck, educator and writer, have founded Chestory, which “gathers artists, scientists, teachers, poets, and waterfolk around a hope that art, song and story can move our culture toward a deeper, more joyful and life-giving relationship with the Chesapeake region in which we live.” Since the spring of 2000, Wisner has led a series of workshops to guide educators, students and others in learning the songs, stories and science of Chesapeake Bay. And he recently released a new CD entitled Made of Water.

Environmental organizations like Sierra Club and Audubon Society offer field trips into wild places along our waters to build enjoyment, awareness and appreciation. Citizen groups like Progressive Maryland challenge county governments to use existing laws to control and target growth from Namjemoy to Lexington Park to Chesapeake Beach to Annapolis.

The health of the rivers undoubtedly affects the health of the Bay. Besides the continuing work of the Patuxent River Commission, which was created through the efforts of former State Sen. Bernie Fowler, the state also sponsors several Tributary Strategy Teams to promote cooperation and solutions to pollution problems.

For the last eight years, Joe Stewart has promoted the Potomac Swim for the Environment to call attention to the need for a “swimmable, fishable Potomac” and to raise funds for five regional environmental groups. This past June, 14 swimmers crossed the 7.5-mile mouth of the river from Hull Neck, Virginia, to Point Lookout, Maryland, and raised more than $7,000 to help the river. At the celebratory picnic afterward, Stewart was honored for his organizing by presentation of the Bernie Fowler Award for Conservation Action in Southern Maryland by the local Sierra Club.

In September of last year, the Interfaith Environmental Group of St. Mary’s County sponsored a Festival of Water: The Spirit of Life at Piney Point on the tidal Potomac. The program featured Native American, Muslim, Christian and Jewish prayers, followed by songs and stories about water. A procession led by the big birds of the Mother of Waters Puppet Theater ended at the riverbank, where participants spoke their thanksgiving and respect.

Perhaps this year on the full moon nearest the winter solstice, December 30, a few folk will gather again before dawn on that narrow spit of land where the Potomac enters the Chesapeake, Point Lookout. They come there to honor nature’s cycles, to witness the penumbral eclipse of the moon as it sets across the river, and turning east, to see the fiery sun rise up out of the vast waters of the Bay.

You can learn more about local organizations and activities involved with our waters on these websites most of which can be found by searching for the name of the group:

Frank Fox is part of the Southern Maryland Group of the Sierra Club.

Copyright 2001
Bay Weekly