Waterways face a wide variety of threats, including excess nitrogen from farms, suburbs and cities, toxic algal blooms, failing septic systems, litter, power plant water, pollution and climate change throughout the U.S. The clean water proponents, government officials, communities and scientists use a number of different tactics and tools to confront these challenges and to increase awareness to these threats and bring about improvements in ecological health. One clever course to take is a report card – like the one recently released for the Long Island Sound.
“The Urban Sea” being dubbed as this inaugural report card for the Long Island Sound includes a range of grades, from an “A” for “very good” water quality in Eastern Long Island Sound to an “F” for “very poor” quality in the shallow Western Narrows, which neighbors New York City.
The sub-regions of the Sound on several water quality indicators are graded in the report card which includes dissolved oxygen, nitrogen, phosphorus, water clarity and chlorophyll a – which combines to make a score and then a grade. There is also a non graded section apart from the details of letters which includes indicators for shellfish, finfish, piping plover, eelgrass and bacteria that are not included in the overall score but that can be browsed by region.
This report card was made by thee University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science’s Integration and Application Network (Damn, that’s a long name) which is a pioneer in creating scientifically-based report cards in the Chesapeake Bay and elsewhere.
“By creating this scientifically-based report card process, we can track our progress in protecting and restoring Long Island Sound and other waterways,” said Bill Dennison at the UMCES, who led the report card effort.
Like parents reviewing their kids’ report cards, politicians pay attention to grades. “This report card makes it clear that while progress has been made to improve the water quality of the Sound, more must be done to preserve this economic engine and local treasure’s waters and coastline,” said New York Congressman Steve Israel, whose priorities in Congress have always included the preservation and protection of the Sound.