PROVIDENCE—The watershed areas of Rhode Island provide lakes and rivers for fishing and recreational activities and a home for a diverse number of fauna and flora. The local community benefits from the clean drinking water that is monitored and protected by myriad environmental organizations. Watershedcounts, presenting its work on Wednesday for Earth Day at the State House, hopes to sharpen their focus.
Watershedcounts is a group of 34 agencies and organizations which have collaborated in order to understand the issues facing Rhode Island’s watersheds and develop multiple approaches towards the preservation of the state’s natural water habitats.
“[Watershedcounts] is basically a network of all the watershed people around the state who will compile data and show how the watershed areas will be affected,” said Greg Gerritt, a member of the environmental awareness group Friends of the Moshassuck.
Q Kellogg, Coordinator of Watershedcounts and Assistant Director of URI’s Coastal Institute, outlined five ‘indicators’ which details the environmental conditions of the Narragansett Bay region; climate change, freshwater resources, invasive species, impervious cover, and beach closures. Each topic details specific concerns and potential solutions.
Impervious Cover (IC), for example, is the roads, driveways, and roofs which block rainwater from naturally soaking into the soil, carrying pollutants into the rivers and lakes of watershed areas. 14 percent of the Narragansett Bay region, 12 percent of Narragansett itself, is under IC, and efforts have been made to reduce the negative effects of storm water caused by roadways.
The matter of beach closures, monitored by the Department of Health, concerns Narragansett more directly. Beaches are the primary attraction for tourists to Narragansett, and beach closures due to poor water quality lessen revenues which damages the local economy. Beaches in Rhode Island have received $12 million in federal and town funding since 2001, and as a result there has been a 36 percent decrease in beach closures since 2006.
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