Vermont Interfaith Power and Light

A faith-based response to global climate change

Faith and Science Partnership Working to Create Culture of Clean Water

Faith and Science Partnership Working to Create Culture of Clean Water

by Barry Lampke

All Souls Interfaith Gathering's Center for Earth Ministry (CEM) and ECHO, Leahy Center for Lake Champlain have established a new partnership that is working on meaningful system change to create a culture of clean water.

Phosphorus Runoff is Creating Unhealthy Water

Vermont's streams, rivers, lakes and ponds are challenged by a number of threats, one of the most serious of which is phosphorus runoff.  Phosphorus is a nutrient essential to plant life, that in high concentrations, is causing serious environmental impacts.  Sources include farms, stormwater runoff from residential and commercial development, and wastewater treatment plants.  

This summer you may have heard or seen the news about algae blooms in Lake Champlain or Lake Carmi.  Certain areas of Lake Champlain, like St. Albans Bay and Missisquoi Bay, have experienced a thick, smelly coat of algae that prevents people from swimming, boating and enjoying the water.  A toxic form of this algae called "blue-green algae," has resulted in sickened animals and beach closures in Burlington and other lake communities.  These blooms are caused by excessive phosphorus runoff into the the lake.

New Law Provides Framework and Resources for Action

Knowing the stakes are high, legislators recently passed, and the governor signed, the Vermont Clean Water Act which provides state agencies with important regulatory and enforcement authority, allocates resources to educate Vermont farmers and businesses about strategies to reduce phosphorus runoff, and creates a Clean Water Fund to support water quality improvement projects.  This comes at a time when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently established limits for how much phosphorus is allowed in certain areas of Lake Champlain.

As state agencies gear up to fulfill their responsibilities, state leaders and other stakeholders are eager to collaborate on the larger picture - engaging all Vermonters in clean water awareness and action. 

Conference Clean Water Session Participants Share Ideas

VTIPL's Annual Conference in October featured a morning session that focused on creating a culture of clean water.  All Souls Interfaith Gathering Pastor Mary Abele and Voices for the Lake Project Manager Barry Lampke provided an overview of one of the project's first key elements, a system map. "The map depicts the key drivers that are necessary to create a culture of clean water," said Lampke.  "For example, one key driver is articulating the value of clean water in economic, environmental and cultural terms.  Ultimately, if we all understand this value, more people will be willing to take action to ensure our water remains clean."  Project participants will use the map to identify opportunities for collaborative action.

Participants in the conference session reviewed the map's drivers and suggested specific actions that are essential to their success.  Other drivers include threats, solutions and funding. "People had concrete ideas that we'll be sure to include in refinement of the map, and identification of next steps," said Lampke.  The session concluded with participants identifying the one next step we can take - as individuals, and in congregations and communities - to begin creating a culture of clean water (see Sidebar).

As this work progresses, we'll provide you with the latest news and updates on this exciting project.




Creating a Culture of Clean Water - Your One "Next Step"


●       Create a rain garden in your yard

●       Know where your water comes from and sewage goes

●       Talk with condo or homeowners association about proper stormwater runoff


●       Evaluate and reduce stormwater runoff from parking lots

●       Conduct a rain garden demonstration project

●       Educate members about the value of clean water


●       Work with your town to explore innovative stormwater solutions

●       Work with schools to teach the science of clean water

●       Celebrate the quality and beauty of Vermont's lakes, ponds, rivers and streams


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