By Kris Patterson

The Mighty Maumee. A nickname well earned over the last year or so. The last year has been one for the record books – especially when it relates to water in many forms and in many ways. Since January of 2014, the Toledo region has had record snowfalls and bizarre ice events around the river. We’ve had record rainfalls and flood events. We’ve had to scramble for potable drinking water while making national headlines. All of this has demonstrated, in very visible, very tangible and often times, in very personal ways, how interconnected we are with nature. For better and for worse. It’s often something we forget or don’t think about as we live day to day. And then, the Mighty Maumee reminding us, again, that nature and people are interwoven, forever linked and connected.

Rivers are always changing, always moving. Rivers react to what happens on the land that surrounds them. So when we have too much rain, the rivers swell and flood. Pollution, excess nutrients or loose dirt can end up in the river and are carried out to the Lake, which can affect the long –term health of the region, its wildlife and eventually, us. It’s a natural process but can negatively affect people when there is damage to homes, businesses, crops, and certainly to drinking water.

Partners for Clean Streams has a seat on many planning committees that are trying to find long term, concrete solutions to a myriad of our region’s complex water quality issues. PCS works closely with various organizations to provide up to date information about water quality issues. We are part of the solution when we educate the public about what we, as individuals and community members, can do to care for our water. For example, when a huge rainstorm does swell our rivers, as it always has and always will, we can work towards having adequate treatments systems beforehand. We can minimize the debris and garbage that may get swept away. We can leave natural spaces for the river to swell into and through, such as wetlands and undeveloped parks and green spaces. Together we can think about and act out the solutions to keep our water healthy now and into the future.

But perhaps most importantly, Partners for Clean Streams provides you, individually and as a community, with a way to become an active steward. We give you the tools, the knowledge, and the “roll your sleeves up, get your feet wet” way to take control, to be part of the solutions for clear, clean, and safe water, right now. You don’t have to wait for the long-term, big picture solutions that may take community leaders, lawmakers, legislatures, and state and federal agencies years to fully roll out. While those long-term solutions are important, so are the everyday individual actions we take.

Come join us at a stream cleanup. Stencil storm drains with a message of “Drains are for Rain, Flows to Waterway” to keep grass clippings, motor oil, pet waste, pop bottles and other trash out of the rivers and storm drains. Help remove fishing line, hooks, and lead sinkers from the Mighty Maumee or Adopt a Fishing Line Recycling Bin to collect recyclable fishing line and keep it out of the river. Pick up our Give Water a Hand tip cards and learn about how you can reduce your phosphorus use at home or your business. Most of all, do what you can to make a difference, even if it is one drop at a time.