River conservation, restoration, and preservation: rewarding private behavior to enhance the commons

Bernard W. Sweeney and James G. Blaine

Stream and river systems are a critical component of the world’s commons, providing a public good that is essential to all life. Almost half the stream and river systems in the USA are in poor condition because thousands of institutions and millions of people have historically made—and continue to make—poor decisions about watershed stewardship. The widespread adoption of best management practices (BMPs) in homes, offices, farms, and factories would do a great deal to mitigate existing impairments and prevent further degradation. Recent advances in technology, which allow precise and relatively inexpensive measurements of BMPs’ effectiveness, can provide an unprecedented level of accountability and make possible the use of incentives not previously available. We propose that incentivization can and should supplement education and legislation in promoting the adoption of BMPs, and we focus on rural and agricultural watersheds to explore how to incentivize BMPs to improve conservation, restoration, and preservation practices.

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American Myths, American Dreams: How the Stories We Tell Create the People We Are

Jamie Blaine's essay was published in An Orange County Almanac and Other Essays (Cultura21 eBooks Series on Culture and Sustainability), which was edited by Joe Zammit-Lucia in collaboration with Cultura21 – a platform for the promotion of cultural and sustainable, social ecological change.

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Seeing the Whole River

James G. Blaine

Dividing a river into parts, claiming it for economic use and ignoring its natural community, we lose sight of the river itself. 


The Economy of Trees

Bernard W. Sweeney and James G. Blaine

When Henry Hudson sailed into Delaware Bay in 1609, he found all around him an unbroken band of old-growth trees. As he sailed up the river toward what is now Wilmington and Philadelphia, he saw waters teeming with fish, woods filled with wildlife, and native peoples drinking water straight from the streams. So thick were the forests that a squirrel could have traveled from Dover to Wilmington without setting its feet on the ground. The European settlers who came soon after Hudson, however, saw the trees as both an impediment to progress and a resource to exploit. Within 200 years Pennsylvania – “Penn’s Woods” – had become one of the great misnomers in history, as the settlers cleared millions of acres for farmland, timber and fuel. That progress had a price, and we are still paying it...


Resurrecting the In-Stream Side of Riparian Forests 

Bernard W. Sweeney and James G. Blaine 

With all the trees you folks are planting around here,” the old farmer said as he watched staff members from the Stroud Water Research Center place yet another row of flags along a meadow creek on a clear fall morning, “pretty soon this whole area will be woods...

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Enhanced Source-Water Monitoring for New York City: Historical Framework, Political Context, and Program Design

James G. Baline, Bernard W. Sweeney, and David B. Arscott

It is now clear that freshwater biodiversity is in crisis and that each species or ecosystem lost to degradation results in a concomitant loss of ecosystem services that are critical to the long-term sustainability of humanity on the planet. Nowhere is the need to rethink water-resource management more critical than in urban areas. One of the most extensive and complex water supply systems in the US is that of New York City, which is the largest source of unfiltered water in the world, supplying over 9 million people with more than 1.2 billion gallons of water per day. The Stroud Water Research Center’s six-year study sought to create a baseline of water quality and ecosystem health for the streams and reservoirs that provide drinking water to New York City and to relate current conditions to land use/cover...


Enhanced Source-Water Monitoring for New York City: Summary and Perspective

Bernard W. Sweeney, David B. Arscott, Charles L. Dow, James G. Blaine, Anthony K. Aufdenkampe, Thomas L. Bott, John K. Jackson, Louis A. Kaplan, and J. Denis Newbold

Distributing 4.5 billion liters of clean fresh water every day to .9 million New York City (NYC) and suburban residents and countless other users is an enormous task that is made even more difficult by the aspiration to supply that water without filtration. To accomplish that task with a sense of confidence requires adequate data to: 1) gauge the quality of water in the source streams, 2) measure changes in that quality over time, and 3) assess the factors that might contribute to future degradation. The primary goal of the Stroud Water Research Center’s large-scale enhanced water-quality monitoring project (the Project) described in the papers in this special series was to create a baseline of water quality and ecosystem health for the streams and reservoirs that provide drinking water to NYC and to relate current conditions to land use/cover. The results show that streams and rivers located west of Hudson River (WOH) deliver good to very good water to most of the receiving reservoirs. The project confirmed the eutrophic condition of the WOH Cannonsville reservoir and further linked that condition to nutrient inputs from the West Branch Delaware River. The project also confirmed that many streams located east of Hudson River (EOH) had fair to poor water quality and that streams in the Croton and Kensico watersheds were biologically and functionally degraded. Streams in some parts of the WOH region appear to be on a trajectory toward conditions already present in streams in the EOH region. Anthropogenic changes in land use from forested to agricultural in the WOH region have affected water chemistry, macroinvertebrate community structure, and stream function, although the impact is less than that caused by changes in land use from forested to urban in the EOH region. Understanding the processes of change in both regions should improve conservation, restoration, and best management practices by revealing the causes of problems, the extent and nature of those problems, and the type of landuse conditions that lead to water-quality degradation. The addition of novel parameters such as nutrient spiraling and whole-stream metabolism to traditional biomonitoring tools has established a new bridge between basic and applied research at the ecosystem level. 


Getting to the Root of the Problem

Elementary school students take part in Pennsylvania’s TreeVitalize program, part of a larger movement to reverse the economically and environmentally ruinous process of substituting multibillion-dollar construction projects for natural infrastructure and to tap instead the benefits that nature provides free of charge...


Volunteers work to restore forests

Planting trees and restoring forests can protect our sources of fresh water...