By Tito y Rachel Guedea
Goshen’s new Department of Environmental Resilience is doing a series of community presentations and meetings as a lead up to some of their Climate Action Planning. The first meeting on Tuesday, February 25, was a presentation on the value of our water resources in the context of a changing climate. Matt Meersman, Director of the Saint Joseph River Basin Commission spoke about the St. Joseph River Basin of which Elkhart County is a part. The Elkhart River is the largest tributary to the St. Joe River.
The big question is, “How is our water doing, both in quality and quantity?” Quality is checked by biological testing every year and checking what and how much living things, animals and plants, are present in the water. Actually 100 years ago this quality was worse. Because of attention to our water shed, quality has been getting a little better over the last few years. As to quantity, we sometimes have more than we want, think flooding. Again, this is less than 100 years ago. The flooding of the Elkhart River in 2019 seems to make that hard to believe. However that was at least a one in one hundred years flood.
So what has changed in the last 100 years. First, 70% of the land cover in the St. Joe River Basin is now used for agriculture in place of what was mostly forest. Second, there is now regulation on water use, including the Clean Water Act. We want clean water and less flooding.
Some ways to achieve that include better plumbing, flood water retention with smart sewers, two stage regulated drainage, and improved flood plains. Additionally there is no till agriculture, rain gardens, rain barrels and wetland restoration. We can advocate for local policy to improve resourcing, change behavior, build trust. With climate change we are seeing more rain in the winter and spring and less in the summer and fall, so there need to be solutions for these changes. Above all we need to remember that water is a resource, not a waste.
There will be 4 more of these community luncheons focusing on environment, Tuesdays March 3, 10, 17, and 24 at 12 noon to 1:00 pm at the Reith Interpretive Center, 410 W. Plymouth, Goshen, IN. Bring your own lunch, coffee and water are provided. Next speaker on March 3 will be Carrie Tauscher, State Community and Urban Forest Coordinator of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources will talk about the social, economic and ecological roles that urban trees play in preparing and adapting to climate change. All interested persons are invited to attend.