How Can We Best Protect Indiana’s Aquatic Species and Water Supplies?

Indiana is home to a host of beautiful bodies of water — including Big Blue River, Blue River, East Fork White River, Tippecanoe River, and Walnut Creek — to name just a few. According to independent research group Environment America, however, Indiana has the highest water pollution levels of any state. In 2012 alone, industrial facilities got rid of 206 million pounds of toxic chemicals into US waterways and around 17 million of these were in Indiana. The Indiana Department of Environmental Management states that the figures are lower than Environment America reports but does state that the state needs to improve when it comes to water quality. State conservation programs are already underway to improve the situation but individuals and families can also do their share to reduce contamination.

Know the Effect of Human Action on Animals

It is not only toxic dumping that is harming Indiana’s waters; stormwater gathers chemicals from city roads and brings them into rivers. This harms aquatic species in many ways, interfering with the delicate habitats they need to thrive. When these chemicals are washed into waterways, they reduce oxygen levels in the water. Exposure to heavy metals, meanwhile, impairs a fish’s ability to smell and source food. Chemicals can also cause the proliferation of algal blooms, which are then consumed by fish and by their predators. Human health, too, can be affected through the consumption of contaminated fish. It is therefore important to offset these processes by choosing to lead more sustainable lives — starting with recycling efforts and continuing with the items that you purchase.

What Can Individuals Do About It?

There are many ways that families can help contribute to cleaner waters. One way is by supporting companies with a reputation for environmental sustainability. Some of the industries contributing to the problem include those manufacturing paint, fertilizers, chemicals, dyes, and the like. It is important for individuals to research the sustainability philosophies of everything from fashion to interior design. Families that have pets such as fish should build environmentally friendly aquariums with rocks, recycled tubes, and other elements instead of aquatic plants taken from bodies of water. In fact, aquatic plant cuttings can be taken from existing aquariums or dedicated farms so as not to interfere with aquatic ecosystems. Those interested in owning fish can also choose freshwater species, which require less energy to maintain in good health than sea water fish.

Protecting Fish When You are On a Boat

If you enjoy taking a boat out to enjoy a day on the waters, make sure your boat is well maintained and devoid of oil and gas leaks. Drain your board when you exit a body of water, so you don’t transport chemicals from one body of water to another. Keep it clean and tidy, packaging food in reusable and recyclable items if possible. Don’t throw any food, items, or fish waste into the waterway, since this can cause contamination.

State Intervention

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources is also doing its share to improve the situation. It has committed to promoting sustainable, economically feasible water conservation measures. The latter include applying sound planning principles, promoting the efficient use of water, identifying and sharing best management practices, and more. The state is also improving monitoring of water quality, developing educational programs, and researching into new ways to improve water conservation and water use efficiency.

The problem of water pollution in Indiana is one that is of concern both to human beings and aquatic animals. State environmental programs can do plenty to ensure and maintain good water quality. So, too, can individuals — by backing sustainable companies, keeping it clean when they are out on boats, and reusing and recycling items to end wasteful consumption.

– Lucy Wyndham, Guest Contributor