My most vivid swimming memories are of frigid early morning “polar bear” plunges into Lake Erie at summer camp. Despite its bad rap, Lake Erie was generally clean and swimmable by the 1980s and still is today, minus a few recent setbacks. This was only possible because of concerted environmental action throughout the United States that culminated in the landmark Clean Water Act of 1972.
Those clean water champions at the Waterkeeper Alliance celebrate the results of clean water with Swimmable Water Weekend, an initiative that runs from July 31 – August 2. If you, too, love swimming in clean water, you can enter a photo contest simply by posting photos of yourself and others enjoying local waterways with the #SwimmableWater hashtag to social media between July 31 and August 2, 2015. Each tagged photo will count as one entry to win a grand prize package, which includes a GoPro Hero, a Kokatat paddle jacket, Keen sandals and more!! Visit the Waterkeeper Alliance website to find the nearest Waterkeeper organization to learn about opportunities and events to get into the water. (Waterkeeper staff will join Hudson Riverkeeper on July 29th at Croton Point Park in Westchester County, New York to dive into the Hudson River and on July 31, they will be in Long Beach, New York for a day in the sand and surf.)
Swimmable Water Weekend is an effort to get people to think a little more about clean water and educate supporters about the persistent problems that face local water bodies. As Marc Yaggi, Waterkeeper Executive Director, explains:
Swimmable Water Weekend was launched in 2012 to raise awareness about the waters that Waterkeeper organizations work so hard to protect. We know that being on or in the water makes us happy. And in their book, Blue Mind, Céline Cousteau and Wallace J. Nichols write that healthy water is crucial to our physiological and psychological well-being, as well as our ecology and economy. We want to build on this organic connection people feel when they are swimming, fishing and relaxing in their local waterways.
This personal connection to our water is at the heart of its protection. While the health of many bodies of water have improved over the years, over 50 percent of US streams, rivers, lakes and coastal waterways were found to be “impaired” or worse in the most recent EPA water quality assessment. That doesn’t mean we should be wary of our waters; rather it means we need to become more aware and knowledgeable about our local waters and work together to help them thrive. (Check EPA’s “How’s My Waterway” to see your local water quality.)
The dedicated people of Waterkeeper are leaders in the movement to protect our shared waters. Everything from swimming, fishing, boating and tourism to overall economic and community success depends on clean, healthy waterways. So on Swimmable Water Weekend grab your friends and family and get out to your favorite swimming hole, lake or beach and take the plunge for clean water! (Cold, early morning swims not required.)