Jay Pinsky: Making tomorrows possible

Most folks I know like tomorrows. I know I do.

Tomorrow is a magical word which always seems to lessen the sting in today’s mistakes and yesterday’s regrets. It serves as the perfect excuse to finish things just a wee bit later, avoid bad news a little longer, and serve as an accomplice for weakness today when we indulge knowing we can repent – tomorrow.

Conservation and tomorrows are kindred spirits. In fact, the whole point behind conservation isn’t really a better looking fox squirrel, bigger brook trout or an endless supply of pine straw to line suburban flowerbeds. No, the whole point behind conservation is to manufacture tomorrows, and we here at Lord Fairfax Soil and Water Conservation District are just a few of the thousands of conservationists manning the manufacturing assembly lines to make as many tomorrows as possible. It’s a cause we believe in and one we’ve been working toward since 1938 when Virginia’s Soil and Water Conservation Districts were authorized by the Virginia General Assembly to conserve our state and local natural resources. Now, there are 47 Soil and Water Conservation Districts across Virginia and all of us are card-carrying members of the tomorrow makers union.

So just how do conservationists make tomorrows? There are quite a few ways, and one of them we do here at Lord Fairfax Soil and Water Conservation District is to try to curb what’s known as nonpoint source pollution so all of the parts we need to make tomorrows like trees, water, air and critters are here – and healthy.

So, what is nonpoint source pollution in the first place? According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the term “nonpoint source” is defined to mean any source of water pollution that does not meet the legal definition of “point source” in section 502(14) of the Clean Water Act, which reads: The term “point source” means any discernible, confined and discrete conveyance, including but not limited to any pipe, ditch, channel, tunnel, conduit, well, discrete fissure, container, rolling stock, concentrated animal feeding operation, or vessel or other floating craft, from which pollutants are or may be discharged. This term does not include agricultural stormwater discharges and return flows from irrigated agriculture.

The EPA says nonpoint source pollution generally results from land runoff, precipitation, atmospheric deposition, drainage, seepage or hydrologic modification. What’s unique about nonpoint source pollution is it isn’t such an obvious environmental villain like a giant ruptured oil pipe oozing petroleum into the Shenandoah River. No, nonpoint source pollution is far more subtle doing its damage bit by bit, here and there a lot like how dust bunnies materialize in your house. These environmental dust bunnies catch a ride on rainfall or snowmelt and hop over and through the soil. As the rainfall and snowmelt, known in conservationist lingo as “runoff” moves, the dust bunnies, or natural and human-made pollutants – surf the waves finding their way into lakes, rivers, wetlands, coastal waters and ground waters.

Unlike the mere nuisance of your household-variety dust bunnies, nonpoint source pollution isn’t swept away with merely the push of a broom. Here at Lord Fairfax Soil and Water Conservation District we use quite a few tools to battle nonpoint source pollution like helping to implement Virginia’s Agricultural Best Management Practices. We also provide help with the delivery of erosion and sediment control ordinances, give conservation planning assistance, coordinate and deliver services that support implementation of county ordinances like Virginia’s Agricultural Stewardship Act and provide education and outreach for our communities about soil and water conservation.

Making tomorrows is a lot of work, so much so that we can’t do it alone. We need you, all of you. We need the farmers, but we also need the ranchers, the hunters, the fishermen, the small businesses, the large businesses, county officials, commuters, tourists, youth, elderly and yes – you, the so-called soccer moms and dads who barely have a front yard to help us make tomorrows possible by being good stewards of our precious natural resources.

For more information about how you can help rid our natural resources of environmental dust bunnies, come visit us at Lord Fairfax Soil and Water Conservation District. But don’t wait too long – there may not always be a tomorrow.

James Pinsky is the Education and Information Coordinator for the Lord Fairfax Soil and Water Conservation District.  Contact him at 540.465.2424, ext. 104, or james.pinsky@lfswcd.org.