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Watershed Academy~Pathways for Water and Climate Resilience

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Becoming a Water Protector

September 13, 2023

Who is a Water Protector?

“If you have a strong connection to environmental issues, I think you should be influencing others to take the same steps as you. Those that are uninformed, informed them; those that want to do more but don’t know how, teach them.”Bertine Lakjohn, 18, of Marshall Islands

Image of young climate activists from a Business Insider Article.

Where does the term “Water Protector” come from?

The first “water protectors” emerged from the uniting forces of the NoDAPL movement. This movement was in response to the construction of an oil pipeline named the “Dakota access pipeline”, a 1,172 mile long pipeline that runs through western North Dakota to southern Illinois. The pipeline was designed to be underneath the Mississippi and Missouri river and under lake Oahe near the Lakota reservation. Its construction undermined a treaty that protected a burial ground of the Lakota people, and the threat of leaking oil also threatened the bodies of water it passed through. Pipelines are a fast way to transport oil underground, but instead of avoiding these important water sources, the company decided to build right over them. Since then, the oil pipeline have leaked many times, polluting the Mississippi and Missouri rivers and lake Oahe, which is relied upon by millions of people.

Situations like this one illustrate why its important that people all around the country know what’s going on with our water supplies. Here in New Mexico it is especially important since our water sources are very scarce.

You don’t have to fish, hunt or kayak to care about our bodies of water. Being a water protector is standing up for water everywhere, knowing that water IS life. Unfortunately, ground water levels have diminished significantly over the last 100 years. Our water sources (rivers, snow runoff, and underground aquifers) are not recharging as fast as we are using them. The quality of water has gone down significantly. There is more long lasting, even “forever chemical” pollution in our water than ever. Climate change driven droughts and fires threaten our watersheds; less and less rain creates dry forests which burn more easily. Fires are then followed by years of dangerous flooding and water pollution from the fire scar. How can we prevent these threats from causing havoc and diminishing the amount of clean water needed to go around? Learn about it, speak about it and organize to protect your water. 

The four RE’s of being a water protector

Be a watershed superhero. Be: