There is an ancient story about a hummingbird and how we react in times of crisis. It goes like this …

“One day in the forest, a fire broke out. All the animals ran for their lives. They stood at the edge of the blaze, looking at the flames in terror and sadness. Up above their heads, a hummingbird was flying back and forth to the fire over and over again. The bigger animals asked the hummingbird what she was doing.

‘I am flying to the lake to get water to put out the fire.’ The animals laughed at her and said, ‘You can’t put out this fire!’ The hummingbird replied, ‘I am doing what I can.’”

From individual acts to large scale projects, we all have a part to play in taking care of our environment. To this end and in an effort to fulfill the human right to clean and vital water the United Nations has designated March 22, 2023 as World Water Day. The day is built around the UN World Water Conference, which aims to bring together national governments and stakeholders from all levels of society to commit to action for clean water and water rights for all.

In 2015, the UN committed to goals to ensure everyone would have access to safely managed water by 2030, and are now realizing the urgency to make better progress to those goals. Of greatest concern, is the significant loss of water over time and the lack of monitoring water quality and sanitation. With over 85% of the planets wetlands lost in the last 300 years, and billions of people across the world facing a lack of clean water for drinking and sanitation, this year’s World of Water Day aims for more urgent commitment to world water problems.

At Discover Cayuga Lake, we want to make sure that the Cayuga Lake Watershed continues to supply clean and life-giving water for all for the rest of time. According to our colleagues at the Cayuga Lake Watershed Network, climate change and extreme weather have presented new hazards and challenges to Cayuga Lake’s water quality and quantity. These concerns include the infestation of invasive species like Hydrilla, the documented presence of Harmful Algae Blooms, drought and emerging contaminants.

No matter where we live, we are all a part of a watershed, and we are all affected by the health and sustainability of its network. When you think of Cayuga Lake and its watershed, it’s more than just the health of the lake that is of concern. The Cayuga Lake Watershed includes surrounding rivers, streams, wetlands, waterfalls, creeks and groundwater. The water from these resources is used in our area for drinking water, farming, wine, beer and cider making, industrial use, wastewater treatment, recreation , home and business usage as well as plant and animal habitats. Watershed resources are also important for sustainability, offering replenishment during times of drought, overuse, depletion from pollution and more.

On the state level- last November, the $4.2 billion New York State Clean Water, Clean Air and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act initiated funding for watershed-based plans to improve and protect water quality. This includes documenting pollution sources, setting pollution reduction goals and identifying strategies communities can use in improving water quality.

The UN Dept. of Economic and Social Affairs has collected data to come up with suggested actions for individuals to take in order to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for everyone. In North America, the three most urgent calls to action for community members to enact are: saving water, stop polluting and eating locally.

Photo courtesy of Stream & Brook Fly Fishing

  • Save Water- Individuals can be a part of the solution by taking shorter baths, and turning off the tap water while cleaning dishes and brushing teeth. They can also use water saving devices and fix leaks promptly, extending the life of the septic system.

  • Stop Polluting- Don’t put food waste, oils, medicines and chemicals down toilets or drains. These ingredients kill beneficial bacteria and upset the functioning of the drainage system. They also contaminate the quality of water, affecting essential aquatic plant and animal life as they make their way through the drainage system and into the streams and lake.

  • Eat Locally- By focusing on eating locally sourced and seasonal foods and seeking out products that are made with less water, individuals can reduce transportation-related pollution in the local watershed. Also, it’s easier to learn about and support producers who are good stewards to the environment through local food consumption.

And while national leaders join together to address clean water access and rights, World Water Day invites individuals into action and to take upon the spirit of the hummingbird, “doing what we can”, to play a part in creating clean and accessible water for all. Since we all share in the benefits and effects of our local watersheds, we also all share in the responsibility of its well-being. This means, taking into consideration how we use water and decisions we make in our every-day lives that could contribute to either the health or detriment of our water resources.

At Discover Cayuga Lake, we have recently opened up our Cruise Booking Calendar for the 2023 Season. Our Science and Exploration Activities which take place on our Lake Monitoring and Family Eco Cruises, are a great way for community members to get involved in the education and understanding of lake quality and conditions through a “citizen scientist” viewpoint. These cruises are meant to ensure lake access to all community members, with a free or “pay-what-you-can” fare. The also offer great experiences to learn more about aquatic life, lake ecology and the importance of watershed protection. We hope you will join us as we all seek to learn more about being more mindful stewards of our local watershed resources this year and every year thereafter!