October is one of my favorite months; the smell of fall in the air, beautiful weather here in Monterey, and the arrival of fall rain after a long, dry summer. I love that feeling of curling up in the warmth of my home when that first big rain hits—except this year that’s not where I’ll be. Instead, I’ll be pulling on my rain boots to go sit by a storm drain to see what washes out. Because whatever does is going straight from the storm drain, to the creek, to the bay—right into the home of our ailing otters.
I’ll be testing the water quality as a volunteer of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary’s First Flush program, which sends citizen volunteer monitors out to get data that would otherwise be pretty expensive to collect. Sure, I’d rather be home with my cats and a cup of hot tea when that rain hits. But I know what an impact stormwater has on our bay—polluted urban runoff pours more contaminants into our ocean than ANY other source. What’s more, stormwater is an unpredictable mix of all the chemicals we use in our daily urban lives—pesticides for our lawns, oil that drips from our cars, soaps and cleansers, trash, and sediment from construction. All of this gets brushed into storm drains or directly into watersheds where it flows out to sea.
It can be hard to quantify what exactly is going into our water, because it’s coming from so many disparate sources. This also makes it difficult to know what kind of impact it has. Chemicals are often tested for safety before manufacturing, but no one really considers how those chemicals react in synergy with all the OTHER chemicals we’re pouring down the drain. Collecting water samples of what’s coming out of the drain is one of the best ways to find out what’s going in, and how we can stop it. So when I’m clinging to my storm drain trying to get a bucket full of pretty gross water, I’m getting a firsthand idea of the challenges our otters face. Yuck.
People often ask us what they can do to help the sea otters. Tackling stormwater is something that requires community support, so this is a great place to start. And it’s something that people EVERYWHERE can participate in. Stormwater pollution from areas far inland still gets dumped into the ocean eventually—so what you put in storm drains inland matters too.
September brought us Sea Otter Awareness Week—which was great. But let’s not forget about otters just because it’s over. The Otter Project needs your help spreading the word— help us spread the word with the Sea Otter Stormwater Challenge!
Here’s what you can do to help:
1) If you’re not already a member, join our facebook cause—this will help us track how many people you help us reach
2) We’ll be using our facebook cause to post ways people can help mitigate stormwater pollution—easy things that EVERYONE can do to make a big difference—so ask your friends to join our cause too!
3) Donate your facebook status to the Sea Otter Stormwater Challenge—we’ll post some handy tips and cool sea otter facts that you can use to dazzle all your friends—and hopefully get them to take action too!
4) Visit the Sea Otter Stormwater Challenge website and learn more!
We’ll reward the top three recruiters on the facebook cause with a set of marine inspired photo cards–incentive to tell all your friends about sea otters (you can send them a card if you win…)!
Thanks and good luck!