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“The Cut” is a weekly reporters notebook-type essay by an Ideastream Public Media content creator, reflecting on the news and on life in Northeast Ohio. What exactly does “The Cut” mean? It's a throwback to the old days of using a razor blade to cut analog tape. In radio lingo, we refer to sound bites as “cuts.” So think of these behind-the-scene essays as “cuts” from Ideastream's producers.

Happy International Day of Action for Rivers!

View of the Cuyahoga River from under the Detroit-Superior Bridge.
Nick Castele
Ideastream Public Media
On March 14 and every day, you can help preserve our waterways and conserve water.

Hi there and happy Thursday! Being a few days away from the weekend is reason enough to celebrate, but today I'm also wishing you a Happy International Day of Action for Rivers.

Established in 1997, March 14 is a day dedicated to rivers, the importance of freshwater ecosystems and the need for continued conservation efforts.

I don't spend much time out on the water myself, but as Ideastream Public Media's environmental reporter, I’ve reported on rain gardens that reduce stormwater runoff, Summit County’s Gorge Dam removal project and diesel fuel spills in the Cuyahoga River and Brandywine Creek earlier this year.

The theme of this year's Day of Actin is Water for All, and it highlights the need for safe and equitable water infrastructure for all communities. Here in Northeast Ohio and elsewhere across the state and nation, public water systems are engaging in the early phases of projects to remove and replace lead service lines that pose risks to the communities they serve. I’m getting started on some reporting that looks into the progress report of these projects in the region, so stay tuned!

Northeast Ohio has a strong connection to its rivers. The 1969 Time Magazine story of a fire on the Cuyahoga River helped inspire a number of environmental actions and policies, sparking the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Clean Water Act.

A black and white photo of a large black cloud of smoke and water being sprayed on a fire.
James Thomas
Cleveland Press Collection at Cleveland State University
The 1952 fire on the Cuyahoga River.

Though the Cuyahoga River has come a long way from its heavily polluted roots, work remains to be done. The river is still deemed an Area of Concern, or AOC, by the U.S. EPA due to erosion, pollution from residential and agricultural sources and contamination from industrial areas.

The EPA is supporting work along the Cuyahoga to restore wetlands, flood plains and habitat for wildlife. There are also local efforts to stabilize shorelines and to remove contaminated sediment that pose risk to aquatic life and those recreating on the river alike.

But there are things we can all do at home to make a difference and help reduce the amount of stormwater runoff that can collect harmful chemicals as it enters our sewer systems, streams and rivers.

Try to use less fertilizers and chemical pesticides, or cut it out entirely if you can. Even keeping the substances concentrated on the grass or garden and away from the driveway, sidewalk and street would make a positive impact.

Installing a rain barrel at home can help collect runoff from your roof that can be used to water your lawn or wash your car. And rain gardens are both beautiful and functional. They absorb rain water to prevent it from ever becoming runoff in the first place.

Check out this list of other ways to protect waterways by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. The U.S. EPA also has its own list filled with ways to preserve and conserve water.

Remember to be mindful of what’s entering our steams and rivers today, and every day.

“The Cut” is featured in Ideastream Public Media's weekly newsletter, The Frequency Week in Review. To get The Frequency Week in Review, The Daily Frequency or any of our newsletters, sign up on Ideastream's newsletter subscription page.

Zaria Johnson is a reporter/producer at Ideastream Public Media covering the environment.