KATHY LUTHER: Melting snow reveals water's awesome power

2014-04-17T00:00:00Z KATHY LUTHER: Melting snow reveals water's awesome powerBy Kathy Luther nwitimes.com
April 17, 2014 12:00 am  • 

At long last the mile-high snow piles have melted away. In their wake, I find two things to reflect on.

First, I am amazed at the power of water in all its forms. A season of freezing and thawing water has caused an eruption of potholes everywhere you go. This serves as an annoying and expensive reminder that water is stronger than our infrastructure and engineering capabilities. Frozen water on the Great Lakes stopped critical shipments of raw materials needed by our manufacturing facilities.

In addition to its power to harm our built environment, water has power to entrance and support us.

The strange and beautiful landscapes created by miles of shelf ice drew almost 18,000 viewers online, and thousands of actual visitors to the Indiana Dunes this winter.

The same Great Lakes ice cover that slows commerce, has also slowed surface evaporation. This phenomenon will most likely lead to at least a partial rebound of Lake Michigan water levels that were approaching record lows over the past few years.

The deep snow melting slowly over farm fields should help to replenish aquifers in areas where wells were starting to fail.

The second thing that struck me as I enjoyed the first few spring walks with my kids was how much water can move, deposit, conceal or reveal our carelessness with the environment.

Winter storms blew around, then buried, all kinds of trash from littered parking lots, tipped recycle bins and outdoor smoking spots. Much of the trash is plowed into piles with the snow or carried along into gutters, where it lies hidden most of the winter.

When the piles melt, we realize the storm drains are clogged with plastic and gunk, the gutter is filled with cigarette butt log-jams, and the parkway with piles of doggy doo.

Sometimes our first instinct is to look around and think, “Who did this to my neighborhood?” and “Why doesn’t somebody clean this up?” Well, at this time of year, somebody is us!

Maybe we were in too much of a hurry to pick up every little bit when the wind blew our paper recycling all over the block. Maybe it seemed too cold to pick up after the dog when snow would hide the evidence. Maybe we didn’t notice the fast food wrapper blow out of the car door.

The melting snow just shows us how our little individual “oops” moments can really add up to a huge mess.

April is Earth Month. Maybe we can all make up for some of that time we were trapped indoors to pick up after ourselves. When you go on a walk, take a sack with you. Pick up a one bag of junk each time you go.

Sure, it might embarrass your kids, but it will also reinforce the message of what happens when people don’t clean up after themselves. If we all do this, it will surely add up to a lot of clean!

Then you can be proud to come out and celebrate Earth Day 2014 at the Porter County Expo Center on Saturday. Let’s make it clean, Northwest Indiana!

Kathy Luther is director of environmental management for the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission. The opinions are the writer's.

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