Dear River Supporter:
As we ask for your support this year, we want to share a story that truly shows the impact your donations have for real Alabamians. We acknowledge: it is often difficult to explain our work in a way that brings it home to you. Sometimes big, long-range policy advocacy just seems too far away from your community and way too wonky. That’s why I’m excited to share with you the story of Jack.
Jack is a real life example of the work we do at the Alabama Rivers Alliance and how it can directly impact you — right in your own backyard.
Jack is the former owner of a small building and remodeling company. He is also a musician of more than 40 years. He has been married for 35 years and has 5 children. Jack and his family are the proud owners, as of 2013, of a beautiful piece of property on Bay Spring in central Alabama.
One day, Jack and his son were motoring up Waxahatchee Creek in their flat bottom boat and they noticed that the murky water suddenly became incredibly clear at the mouth of a little creek called Mill Creek. They decided to explore further up into Mill Creek and discovered Bay Spring, a pristine clear pool of cold water feeding Mill Creek. This discovery led to many future hikes into the area until one day they saw that some land was for sale. The family had fallen in love with this area by now, so they pooled their money together and bought the property.
In October of 2015, Jack and his family were enjoying the property when they were horrified to find the spring completely drained, resulting in thousands of dead fish. Before that, they had witnessed odd fluctuations of the spring – going from normal pool to significant drops within an hour and then back. Jack had suspicions that it was related to the groundwater pumps from the local water works, located just a half mile up the creek. When they saw the creek completely drained that day, they were devastated and immediately called everyone they could think of from the local sheriff to ADEM to the water works – all to no avail.
Finally, while searching online for help, he found the Alabama Rivers Alliance. Jack had definitely come to the right place. The Alabama Rivers Alliance has been working on water use and management issues for years. No one knew better than we did how difficult it would be for Jack to deal with his problem with the water works and protect his beautiful spring. We knew that Alabama has no laws on the books that protect a downstream landowner from an upstream water user.
Other than filing a lawsuit, Jack had very little options and, as we all know, lawsuits are expensive.
The long term solution to protecting Jack’s spring is the development of a sustainable water plan for Alabama. The Alabama Rivers Alliance has made huge strides in that direction over the past five years and we need your help today to push it across the
Alabama Rivers Alliance staff immediately visited Jack’s property and called out state agency personnel to document the fish kill. We also offered some resources for Jack to help learn more about what was happening to his spring. The spring continued to fluctuate over the next year and then in the fall of this year, it completely drained again. The low water in the fall season coupled with record low drought conditions, pushed the spring to the edge once again and more fish died.
This time, Jack knew he had to do something.
Local landowners had been complaining to the water works for years, but Jack had a relationship with the Chairman of the water board, so he paid him a visit. Armed with the information and tools that the Alabama Rivers Alliance had given him, Jack was able to convince the water board to turn off the pumps. The spring recovered. Jack is now working on a long term agreement with the water works to ensure a more sustainable future for Bay Spring, but he knows this was not a unique situation. In Jack’s own words:
“We depend on this water, and we will not feel confident until we have these things in place. This is a spring that historically, has never gone low, even in the worst drought years for well over a hundred years. Here we are in the midst of an extreme drought, and Bay Spring is doing what it has always done, while other rivers in the state are at record low levels. I know that we are a needle in a haystack when it comes to the water issues in this state. We need state water plans as well as localized plans to insure that not only Bay Spring, but all of the other waters in this state can continue to flow the way that they were designed to.”
Jack’s story doesn’t end here, though. He is excited to begin forming a local citizen group, Friends of Bay Spring. His involvement with the Alabama Rivers Alliance showed him how important it is to have local people that are connected to our broader movement in order to have more influence at the state level. Our staff has been assisting local communities in building their own watchdog groups for almost two decades and we are excited to work with Jack and his community to bring in more local support for Bay Spring.
Our 132,000 miles of rivers and streams need all the help they can get. You have helped build a river protection movement that is still growing and we need your continued financial support to keep it strong and connected across our great state.
It is stories like Jack’s that keep us going every day. In these times of uncertainty in our world, there are few things we can hold tight to, but water is something we all need. Clean, healthy, flowing rivers are the only way to maintain the quality of life that we all depend on and dream of for our children and their children.
We are grateful for your support of the Alabama Rivers Alliance and we hope that you will give as generously as possible as the year comes to a close. Places like Bay Spring and people like Jack are depending on us and we are depending on you.
Water is life,