What Are Urban Waters?
Urban waters are rivers, bays, or other water bodies close to high-population, urban areas. In Washington, examples of urban waters are the Lower Duwamish Waterway in south Seattle, Tacoma’s Commencement Bay, and the part of the Spokane River that flows through the city of Spokane. There are others in the state; bodies of water next to populations of 25,000 or more have many features of urban waters.
Why Are Urban Waters A Concern?
The ecology of urban waters poses special challenges due to concentrated human activity.
The typical urban environment exposes these waters – including their shores and sediments (mud at the bottom of the waterway) – to many sources of pollution.
These sources include industry, businesses, municipal wastewater, stormwater, spills, marinas, septic systems and many other sources. In addition, the big urban populations next to these waters add pollution from households, ranging from cleaners to paints, from motor oil to fertilizers.
These pollutants cause many problems for urban waters: dirty shorelines and beaches; contamination of shellfish-growing areas; water unsafe to swim in; and toxic substances entering the food chain. Cleanups are expensive to business and taxpayers and polluted areas often cannot be used for development, industry or recreation.
The Washington Department of Ecology developed the Urban Waters Initiative to deal with these challenges.
What is the Urban Waters Initiative?
The Washington Department of Ecology developed the Urban Waters Initiative to focus on the special environmental challenges faced by urban water bodies. The initiative gives a boost to ongoing efforts to find and control pollution sources before they enter these waters. The aim is to prevent contamination or re-contamination of waterways. Re-contamination occurs when a polluted waterway that has already been cleaned up starts becoming polluted again.
The 2007 Legislature provided about $2.5 million for this purpose in the 2007-09 biennium. The money is for use in these three areas:
Monitoring to provide a baseline, compare to the past, monitor effectiveness and provide perspective on Puget Sound.
A collaborative effort — by local, tribal, state and federal governments, business, agricultural and environmental interests, and the public — to restore and protect the Sound.
Run-off that flows through storm drains and is released untreated into local waterways.
Clean water campaign to change behaviors that cause non-point pollution.
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