In the survey, only one in seven respondents (15 percent) knew that the greatest source of river pollution is damage to watersheds from human activities such as land change and urban sprawl. Nearly three times as many (44 percent) said industry was the biggest culprit polluting waterways.
"The accelerated development of land across the country and its impact on our rivers is a major problem facing us today," said Larry Selzer, senior vice president of The Conservation Fund. "Through this partnership we have the unprecedented opportunity to protect our rivers across this great land we call America."
The survey showed a strong willingness on the part of most Americans to make some adjustments in everyday actions that could help improve the health of rivers, such as turning off the water tap while brushing their teeth or doing dishes.
Respondents also indicated they were willing to act in the home to help ensure the quality of rivers through actions such as disposing of household chemicals safely and not down drains or sewers (83 percent), inspecting and repairing leaky sewers and septic tanks (81 percent), minimizing the use of fertilizers (57 percent), and starting a compost pile (47 percent).
Yet many indicated they were less willing to change behavior in ways that would perceivably alter their lifestyles and preferences, such as landscaping with native plants rather than grass (38 percent) and giving up the luxury of driving to work, even if for only one day a week (22 percent).
Willingness to Participate
A positive finding was that two-thirds of the respondents (65 percent) said they wanted to become more personally involved in conserving and protecting rivers, while nearly one in five (19 percent) said they were interested in becoming an active "river advocate." They cited lack of sufficient time, information, and awareness as the major reasons why they are not more personally involved in river conservation.
More than a third of those surveyed (35 percent) expressed the sentiment, "I don't know how I can help," and six in ten (60 percent) that they did not know where to acquire information on river conservation issues.
"The numbers speak for themselves," said Larry Selzer, senior vice president of The Conservation Fund. "Americans are eager for knowledge about rivers and how to protect them."
The poll found that the respondents were most motivated to become involved in river conservation projects that were family-oriented. Two-thirds of those surveyedand almost three-quarters of adults with children at homesaid a major reason to get involved in river conservation is because such programs provide excellent educational opportunities for children and are a good way to instill important values.
As part of the new project, an "Aqua Heroes" contest this summer will challenge K through 12 students to investigate an issue concerning a river, devise a solution, and inform their communities about the problem.
In another project-related activity, 53 teachers from across the country will soon attend a four-day training workshop on river and conservation issues at the National Conservation Training Center in Sheperdstown, West Virginia.
National Geographic has established a special website for the project at Geography Action! Rivers 2001.
The "Geography Action! Rivers 2001" campaign was developed in partnership with The Coca-Cola Company, The Conservation Fund and the River Council, a consortium of five river conservation groups: American Rivers, Izaak Walton League of America, River Network, Trout Unlimited, and Waterkeeper Alliance.
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