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Go Jump in a Lake!

Insights + Opinion

Marc Yaggi

This summer, grab your family and make the time to get out and enjoy your local waterway! Whether it's swimming, surfing, paddling, snorkeling or just laying on the beach and enjoying the sound of surf breaking, take the time to enjoy YOUR right to clean, swimmable waters. Today, we are celebrating Swimmable Action Day—a day to advocate for our right to clean, swimmable waters for all.

Why? Because the more we use our waterways, the more we will understand, and value, the importance of clean water to our communities. Access to clean swimmable waters gives us a day of recreation without fear of harmful pollutants, provides a sense of place and inspires us to act as stewards of our waterways. And that is exactly what we need today—an army of informed citizen advocates who understand that everyone has a right to clean water for swimming, drinking and fishing. An informed, active public is the best defense to preventing industrial polluters and corrupt politicians from privatizing our waters. Usually, all it takes to instill this is a meaningful connection—a positive experience—with one's local waterway.

Take a minute and listen to participants in the recently held Buzzards Bay Swim (a Waterkeeper Alliance Splash Series event presented by Toyota and KEEN) talk about their connection to their local waterway.

Organized by Buzzards Baykeeper, the swim drew more than 300 people, who swam 1.2 miles across the bay to join hundreds of supporters in raising money and awareness for a clean bay. We interviewed dozens of swimmers and attendees. The most common reply to the question "what does clean water mean to you?" was "life." Most of the participants couldn't imagine a world where it wasn't safe for them to jump in a local waterway and go for a swim.

And swimming is good for you.  According to the Centers for Disease Control, swimming is the second most popular sport in the United States and an excellent way to get regular aerobic activity.  As an exercise, swimming can lead to improved health for those with diabetes, heart disease, or other chronic illnesses. Those who swim regularly have stronger hearts and good muscle stamina.  Swimming also is easier on joints and muscles than most exercise and can improve mental health. 

But of course, we need clean water for other water-based recreation, such as kayaking, canoeing, surfing, sailing, waterskiing, fishing, and paddle boarding. A 2006 Study by the Outdoor Industry Association estimates that outdoor recreation contributes $730 billion annually to the U.S. economy. Apart from the significant economic impacts, the benefits of water-based recreation include increased physical fitness, meeting people, growing self-confidence, learning new skills and more. Added benefits include community pride, environmental awareness and cultural appreciation.

Further, the America's Great Outdoors report notes that "play and relaxation in nature can reduce stress and anxiety, promote learning and personal growth..." It is also a powerful antidote to the skyrocketing obesity rates across the nation, which have tripled among our children over the past 30 years. The report goes on to observe that "Americans' increasing disconnection from the outdoors...also weakens the commitment to stewardship of our shared natural legacy."

If you have a memorable experience recreating on a waterway, aren't you more likely to step up and fight for that waterway if someone abuses it? Of course. That is why, with the generous support of Toyota and KEEN, we are continuing to expand our National Splash Event Series. At Splash events, local supporters across the country swim, boat, paddle or fish in celebration of everyone's right to clean water. To date in 2012, we've hosted Splash events in Biscayne Bay, FL; Potomac River in DC; Russian River in Healdsburg, CA; Mobile Bay in AL, and Buzzards Bay in MA. Looking ahead, we plan to get people splashing in Lake Erie, OH; New York Harbor; Hackensack River, NJ; Charleston, SC, and on the Kentucky River.

Additionally, we are working to expand the new Waterkeeper Swim Guide (download it at the App Store or www.theswimguide.org) across the country. The Waterkeeper Swim Guide is a revolutionary smartphone app and website that tells you where your closest beaches are, which ones are open for swimming and which have unreliable monitoring data. The Waterkeeper Swim Guide goes further by describing the laws and policies and sampling procedures that apply to your beaches and also gives citizens a pollution reporting tool. This summer, we have launched the Swim Guide in Florida; California; New York, Connecticut; Mobile, Ala.; the Chesapeake region; the Great Lakes; Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia, and parts of Quebec.

Let's all celebrate Swimmable Action Day today. Please lend your support and go 'jump in a lake', or pond, river, bay, or stream!  And post a photo of yourself, your kids or your dog enjoying your right to clean, swimmable water to our Facebook page.

 

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