September 28th is World Rivers Day -- a great opportunity to stop and appreciate the many benefits rivers give us, our families, our communities, our businesses, and to the broader environment. The United States has more than 250,000 rivers -- that's 3.5 million miles of rivers. Consider how rivers touch your own life. Rivers give us drinking water. Rivers are places to learn and explore. Rivers give us time with family and friends. Rivers give us recreational adventures. Rivers are beautiful landscapes where the wild things are. These waters are the lifeblood of the land and our communities.
Healthy rivers mean healthy people
We literally have rivers flowing in our veins — Half of our drinking water comes from rivers, and the other half comes from groundwater which is connected to rivers. Water from rivers helps grow the food we eat. Put simply, we can't survive without clean water. Rivers also give us opportunities to exercise and spend time in the great outdoors. Whether it's fishing, paddling, or just walking along a riverside trail, rivers are central to a healthy lifestyle.
Healthy rivers mean healthy communities
Global warming is bringing increasingly severe floods and droughts. Communities with healthy rivers will be best equipped to deal with these extreme changes. The best way to protect communities from floods is by restoring natural floodplains, which act as buffers between floodwaters and homes, and protecting wetlands, which act like sponges, soaking up and filtering floodwaters. Scientists estimate that in general just 4 to 5 percent wetland coverage in a watershed reduces peak floods by 50 percent. And when it comes to building community resilience in the face of drought, a healthy river is the ticket to a clean and reliable water supply.
Healthy rivers mean a healthy economy
Rivers mean business. River-related recreation and tourism generate hundreds of millions of dollars for our economy. A recent study showed that rafting, fishing and jet boat tours on Oregon's Rogue River generated $14 million and 225 jobs for the local economy. Around the country, a clean, beautiful river translates into higher property values. And in many cities the riverfront is the heartbeat of a vibrant downtown.
Healthy rivers mean a healthy environment
Rivers are the circulatory system of the natural world. They provide food and water for a whole host of wildlife. They are migratory corridors and nurseries. In the Southwest United States, 80 percent of wildlife depends on a river or riverside lands for at least half their life.
Rivers touch our lives in so many ways. They run through our history, and connect us to the future. They flow through our culture, in our music, art and stories. What American doesn't know the river adventures of Huck Finn or of Lewis and Clark? Our rivers are sources of identity and community pride. As Charles Kuralt, a former board member of American Rivers wrote, "America is a great story and there is a river on every page."
On this World Rivers Day, take time out to appreciate your river and everything it brings to your life.
Image credit:Carter E. Gowl.
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