Outdoor Adventures, Sustainable Living

Reduce your Impact: Notes to remember when staying near water sources

Campers near at Papaya River
Campers at Papaya River

Water is an important resource we often take for granted having the luxury of obtaining it in a simple turn of a faucet or a flick of a dispenser switch. But like all of earth’s resources, it is actually finite- especially fresh water which only accounts to 2.5% of all water on earth (the remaining 97% is saltwater). With two-thirds of this water frozen as snow and ice, and one-third stored underground, what is really left to us in rivers, streams, marshes and swamps is only 0.3%.

The awareness of the finiteness of water makes the sight of a glass-clear river in the mountains and the seemingly never ending gush of water in a spring you can drink from always enthralling. Living in the city where all we see are rivers and streams that are polluted- brown, murky, and with putrid fumes emanating from the dirty waters- it is sometimes hard to believe that such purity still exist in the present and has not become just another story of the past. We just have to travel far or high up in the mountains to experience it.

With the threat of water pollution always looming not just in cities but in the uplands as well- we must strive hard to protect what remains of our freshwater resources. We all want to continue enjoying our remaining clean springs and rivers where we can refresh, relax, and enjoy an idyllic landscape away from the grime and noise of cities.

For that, here are some points to remember when staying near water sources such as springs, rivers, streams, and waterfalls whenever we have excursions near them.

Avoid using soaps and shampoos

Swim in the river, bath in the waterfalls to refresh yourself but please, skip using soaps and shampoos there as these have contaminants that can pollute the water. I may sound like a killjoy here, but this is the truth- and we know this. We might think that a little of these chemicals will not hurt the water- but imagine that others might be tempted to do it too if they see you. This will produce a compounding effect and before we know it, we have already polluted the water.

Let’s not be part of the problem.

Also, some of the rivers in the mountains is respected by the community and they have ordinances or customary laws that prohibit using soaps and shampoos ( e.g in Agno River in Bokod; in Mt. Mantalingahan). Let’s follow their customs and respect their rules, we are just visitors.

Use instead: washcloths to remove dirt on your skin when planning to bathe in the river/ falls.

If camping near a water source, avoid rinsing dirty utensils directly in the water

Rinsing dirty utensils directly in the water produce “grey water” or wastewater that contains grease, food remains and other organic materials which becomes a pollutant.

Best to: sprinkle the grey water under some vegetation located some meters away from a water source. However, if the grey water contains much food remains, it will be good to dig a small hole and bury it there (like making a small compost pit!)- we do not want to see your leftover lunch disrupting a scenic riparian view.

Avoid using dish washing liquid (preferably not just near water sources but anywhere in the mountain)

Dish washing liquid is very poisonous- once I poured a diluted amount of it to a cockroach and it died within 30 seconds (yes- I really counted the seconds!). We do not want to pour something as poisonous as a dish washing liquid to a clean water body or in the mountains, right?

As alternative: you can scrub cooking and eating utensils with baking soda plus a little drop of water. Someone told me that adding a bit of salt makes the mixture even more effective in cleaning and removing grime.

Also, stainless steel is easier to rid of grease than its plastic counterpart so switching to this kind of mess kit/ eating utensils makes cleaning much less of a hassle.

Do not litter

This is one very basic rule that should be applied anywhere, not just near water bodies. We should always put our trash in the waste bin, however, in its absence, keep the trash to yourself for a while until you can dispose of it properly.

Near water bodies, nooks and crannies and secret spaces under and between rocks are really no place for plastic wrappers, alcohol bottles or wet wipes.

Level up: You may also practice reducing wastes so that you have less thrash to bring back. One of the easiest ways to do this is by simply bringing your own water bottle and cutting back the use of disposables like straws and plastic cutleries. Packing your food in a reusable lunchbox instead of a one-time use take-out container also helps.

Respect the water (and its other users)

Remember that water is our shared resource so keeping it clean and free from pollution is a also a form of respect to others we share it with. Look at the map below of all our rivers and see how interconnected they all are: from the ridge, high up in the mountains it sprawls down and empties into the sea. It is the perfect example of one of the Seven Environmental Principles “everything is connected to everything else”.

waterways and water bodies_philippines_David Garcia_low resolution
Map of the “circulatory system” or the rivers and river systems of the Philippines by David Garcia

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