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By Centennial Volunteer Ambassador Ariel Johnson, Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve, Florida

Down in Florida there exists only two real seasons, the dry season and the wet season.  Now being from the Mid-Atlantic I thought we received quite a bit of rain, but I was wrong.  The summer storms in Florida blow through hard and fast, then disappear leaving the shining sun and large puddles everywhere.

Not only was the amount of rainfall fascinating to me, but how tidal the Jacksonville area is, especially at Kingsley Plantation where I spend most of my time.  Every time I leave the plantation I stare at the Fort George river to check to see whether it’s low or high tide.  If the tide is high and it has recently rained then the paved road will be flooded over, therefore limiting the access on and off the island.

In Jacksonville water is a means of transportation, food and recreation.  The St. John’s River cuts through the middle of the city, the Atlantic Ocean borders to the east, and to the north salt marshes break up the landscape.

The importance of water in Jacksonville got me thinking about water on a regional and then global scale.  Here it’s hard to imagine that there is water scarcity, that there isn’t enough freshwater on our planet to sustain our current use.

There are 332,500,000 cubic miles of water on planet earth.  Approximately 3% of that water is freshwater, but only 1%  of the freshwater isn’t frozen.  To put in more numbers that means 3,325,000 cubic miles of water is available for over 7 billion people to drink, cook and bathe with.

As the human population grows we not only use more water, but we tend to pollute our freshwater sources with trash, chemicals and bodily waste.  While this is a gloomy outlook for our planet I’ve witnessed the great attitudes of ambitious young individuals.

On National Public Lands Day, we had our largest turn out of volunteers for our beach clean-up.  As I mentioned before it’s very tidal at Kingsley Plantation, so early that morning the same beach we cleaned was under approximately 5 feet of water. We were able to collect 7 large trash bags of waste that included bottles, gloves, diapers, fishing wire and plastic bags.beach

It was during the clean-up that conversation, conducted by the volunteers, began about having regular clean-up of all the waterways in the Jacksonville area.  Children, teens and adults spoke of how areas even in their own backyard could benefit from a trash pick up.  For me this was the highlight of the day.

I will say one thing to those who walk by trash on the street or swim by it in the waters: Stop take a moment to remove the trash and deposit it into the appropriate receptacle.  The next time a storm blows through the garbage left on the streets will end up in the surrounding rivers, ocean or salt marsh. Lets strive to keep our waters clean if not for ourselves, then for the future generations.

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