Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Bay-Friendly Living: How much poop is too much in your water?

By Tom Kutcher, Save The Bay Baykeeper

Dogs are really fun and cute and are, indeed, some of our best friends. They have personalities that endear them to us because they exhibit many of the same expressions and postures as humans, including happy, sad, excited and, yes, ashamed.

But frankly, I don’t want to follow along behind any of my best friends and pick up their poop directly after they relieve themselves. I did this with my kids for about four years, collectively, and that was quite enough for my lifetime.

So I understand when dog owners are tempted to just let Rover sneak into the bushes near the sidewalk to discreetly do his No. 2 business without the fanfare and humility of the inside-out shopping bag. But, as the Baykeeper for Save The Bay, I have to tell you that this is not good.

Let’s do the math. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are more than 462,000 households in Rhode Island. And according to the American Veterinary Medical Association, 29 percent of Rhode Island households are homes to dogs. That means there are at least 134,000 dogs in the state that need to relieve themselves at least once per day.

Just about all land in Rhode Island is in the Narragansett Bay watershed, meaning it drains into rivers, streams, lakes and ponds (including drinking-water reservoirs) and eventually into the bay. Additionally, twice as much land in Massachusetts, with a similar but slightly lower dog ownership rate, also eventually drains into Narragansett Bay. Conservatively, we can estimate that when we add in Massachusetts, twice as many dogs are doing “business” in our watershed — that’s 268,000 pups.

Continuing with the math, let’s use a single dog poop as a starting unit of measure; 268,000 pups times 1 poop per day equals 268,000 poops per day. Now, let’s covert that to volume so we can visualize it. Everyone knows what dog poop looks like, right? For simplicity, let’s say the average poop is about a cup, and there are 16 cups in a gallon. Our conservative estimate of 268,000 cups of poop per day divided by 16 cups per gallon gives us 16,750 gallons of poop per day.

Now visualize a gallon of poop looking about the same size as a gallon of milk, except gross. If you stood those gallons side by side, the gallons of poop “contributed” by our dogs would stretch for more than 1½ miles per day, or 580 miles per year.

Now, none of us would ever consider dumping even a gallon of dog poop into the bay even just once. But if every dog owner in the Narragansett Bay watershed let their dog poop outside without picking it up, we could expect most of those 16,750 gallons of poop to end up in our waterways — the waterways we use for drinking water, swimming, fishing and shellfishing. That’s a lot of poop.

And for a community like Aquidneck Island, where most of the drinking water is gathered directly from watershed surface runoff, it becomes particularly important. In fact, the 24,367 households on Aquidneck Island (according to the 2010 U.S. Census, and that’s not including the summer visitors) translates to about 7,356 dogs on the island pooping about 1 cup per day, for a total of 460 gallons of poop per day being produced on the island.

How much dog poop is acceptable for us to dump into the waters we swim in or drink from? I’m guessing we’d all say “none.” But every time we leave Rover’s No. 2 on the ground when no one is looking, we’re essentially saying that swimming in and drinking contaminated water is OK.

So, just as every individual in Rhode Island collectively contributes to our proud community of Rhode Islanders, our collective conscience in picking up after our pets is what keeps our precious waters clean.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Gail Ginnetty: The Legacy of a Lifetime

Gail Ginnetty’s love of all things water first took root when she learned to sail and began racing during her elementary school days. In high school, she sailed regularly in East Greenwich, and Narragansett became a regular summer beach spot. Now retired from a distinguished career in banking and development, Ginnetty lives in Cranston with a view of the Bay and is on her third sailboat in partnership with other owners. She has plenty of vivid memories—like that time rough weather blew out the spinnaker and her sailboat capsized when she was just 12 or 13, and competing and winning races almost from the beginning—that have fed her love for Rhode Island’s most important natural resource.

“Narragansett Bay has always meant wonderful opportunities to enjoy the water, and every year I create a new wonderful memory,” Ginnetty said. As I matured into adulthood, I developed a growing appreciation for what the Bay means to the state. It truly is part of the body of Rhode Island, and from an economic standpoint, even if you live in Woonsocket with no view of the bay, it’s extremely important to you.”

So, Ginnetty’s first gift to Save The Bay decades ago—in response to a request from someone who knew she cared about the Bay—was sort of “a natural.” In the mid 1980s, she became a sporadic volunteer, and in 1998, began what turned into a 15-year tenure on the board, including eight years as Treasurer. Her knowledge of wealth management and nonprofit endowment planning gave Save The Bay an invaluable leader who would help strengthen the organization fiscally.

Like her involvement with Save The Bay, Ginnetty’s small annual gifts progressed as she got to know the organization better and saw it had all the hallmarks of a good non-profit organization—”well-managed, broad outreach, strong relationships with government, private industry and other non-profits, adaptive strategies, and continuous improvement. Most importantly, I believe in its mission,” she said. In 2004, Ginnetty made what may be her most important contribution to date. She became a founding member of Save The Bay’s Seagrass Society, by notifying Save The Bay of her legacy gift plans.
“My decision to make a legacy gift... is the culmination of all the time, resources and passion I’ve spent here, and I want to think I can continue that investment long after I’m gone.”

The Seagrass Society honors individuals who remember Save The Bay in their estate plan—a legacy gift. Just as seagrass beds are a foundation for a healthy Bay, legacy gifts provide for the longer-term future of the organization and the Bay. They are planned during a donor’s lifetime, and activated upon their passing, allowing donors to fulfill their philanthropic dreams through the legacy they leave behind. More and more people around the world are leaving legacies in increasingly diverse ways—including retirement accounts, life insurance policies, annuities, trusts, personal property or a percentage of one’s estate.

Ginnetty says she’s committed to legacy gifts in particular because they are accessible to everyone. “There is no minimum on a legacy gift. And they give people a chance to think about how they want to be remembered,” she said. “People with limited discretionary income can leave a larger gift in their will than they might be able to give during their life. Annual donors can continue their gift into perpetuity. Donors at any level can take their giving to the next level, whatever that is.”

“I’ve chosen to name Save The Bay a beneficiary of my individual retirement account. I have had the privilege of seeing Save The Bay move from its office in a very small old bank building to this beautiful location and the expansion of education programs that take marine science to schoolchildren all over the state. My decision to make a legacy gift—more than I could give today—is the culmination of all the time, resources and passion I’ve spent here, and I want to think I can continue that investment long after I’m gone,” she said.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

An Intern’s First International Coastal Cleanup

By Annalisa Carmosino, Save The Bay Intern

On Saturday, September 19th, at 8:00 am, Oakland Beach was gray, foggy, and deserted save a few sleepy dog walkers. In less than an hour, volunteers for the International Coastal Cleanup began to arrive: veteran volunteers, students from Bryant University, a group of Girl Scouts. Everyone was eager to get started.

As an events intern at Save The Bay, I helped our Grants and Foundations Manager Stephany Hessler distribute supplies, explain the ICC data sheet, and answer questions about debris found on the beach. By far, the biggest problem we encountered at our site was cigarette butts. One pair of volunteers focused on a small corner of the parking lot and picked up 764 cigarette butts! After working hard on what turned into a sunny day, volunteers made their way to the REI mobile campsite, where they could relax and enjoy lemonade, cornhole and even swing in a hammock.

This was my first cleanup with Save The Bay, and what impressed me the most was the diversity and dedication of our volunteers. It was encouraging to see many families with children; hopefully taking part in a beach cleanup will become a family tradition. I didn’t expect to see many volunteers come to the cleanup by themselves, but quite a few people came alone. The lone wolves, as I called them in my head, showed up to help despite the fact that family or friends couldn’t make it, and without a hint of insecurity. A Save The Bay cleanup is exactly what you’d hope for in a cleanup—a group of everyone and anyone who cares about our coast and wants to contribute the time and effort to clean it.

I love to color code and label anything and everything, so I was super excited about the ICC’s detailed data collection sheets…but a little worried that volunteers might get tired of recording every piece of trash. I was thrilled to be totally wrong. Volunteers valiantly recorded every single cigarette butt. Whenever a team turned in their data sheet, they showed Stephany and me the notes they’d made to keep track of the cigarette butts, or how they had written tally marks for cigarette butts all over the sheet. Their dedication to detail is what makes the ICC possible. Their painstakingly collected data is essential for the Ocean Conservancy to provide an accurate, big-picture representation of the problems facing coastlines around the world.

The total weight of the trash our volunteers removed from Oakland Beach was a little over 800 pounds. For those of you unfamiliar with Oakland Beach-it is not a large area. We also cleaned the parking lot and playground, but the shoreline is only about two miles long. Removing 800+ pounds of trash from such a small and beautiful part of our coast raised conflicting feelings for me and the volunteers: frustration, satisfaction, disbelief and excitement to have taken part in an International Coastal Cleanup. There is still trash on the beach, and people will probably litter tomorrow. But Oakland Beach is 800 pounds of trash cleaner, and that 800 pounds will be part of a larger solution.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

King Tides and your Backyard: A Snapshot of our Future

By Rachel Calabro, Community Organizer and Advocate at Save The Bay

As hurricane Joaquin headed away from the East Coast earlier this week, it felt like we dodged a big one. This doesn’t mean, however, that we shouldn’t view this as another wake-up call for what is happening with coastal flooding. The footage coming out of the flood in South Carolina is shocking, but all too real. The potential for our warmer atmosphere to hold water and dump it all at one time is increasing. And, in addition to the growing intensity of rainfall, sea level rise is forcing many coastal residents deal with flooding on a regular basis.

As residents of coastal New England, we need to watch the skies not only for rain clouds, but also for the moon. Why the moon? The full moon brings with it the highest tides of every month. A few times a year (often close to the autumnal equinox), it brings the highest tides of the year, called King Tides.

This is what we experienced last week when everyone was excited about the lunar eclipse. The tides that week were expected to experience a seven-foot difference between the low tide and high tide in Providence. Most full moon tides in Providence average around five feet, and during a half moon, around four feet. The additional two to three feet of water that come during King Tides are just the beginning of the trouble. Add in winds from the south and ample rainfall, and flooding gets worse. Tides last Wednesday registered above eight feet at the top of the Bay.

Save The Bay, along with our partners at the Coastal Resources Management Council and the Coastal Resources Center at URI, is helping to capture photos of these events to share with town and state officials and the public. The photos are available to view at Volunteers have been out across the state taking photos and using a new smartphone app that is also available to support the webpage.

Car drives through floods along Mathewson Rd. in Barrington.
It doesn’t take much to go from an extremely high tide to water so deep you can’t drive through it. One important thing to remember is that if you are near the coast, this is salt water. Even if it's raining, these are not just puddles, and you can significantly damage your car by driving through it. Don’t let this be you.

Drinking water is on the left side of this dam, while coastal
salt water is on the right.
Roads are not the only infrastructure in danger from high tides. Drinking water reservoirs, waste water treatment plants, pump stations and power lines are all located in coastal areas that will flood in the future. This photo of Nonquit Pond in Tiverton reveals that there are only few years left for this reservoir to retain its current use as a drinking water supply.

National Grid tries to protect is power lines in India Point
Park in Providence.
Snow fencing and hay bales will not stop the inevitable march of the tides.

These photographs are just a vision of the future. Taking the long view is important and planning to accommodate water in whatever way possible will be the best way forward. For now, invest in a moon calendar, and be aware of your surroundings.

Cars are stuck in their driveway at Spadina Avenue
in Warwick. How many days per year will this happen,
and how do we plan for the future?
Currently, this kind of flooding takes place in Rhode Island just a few times a year, but is forecast to become much more common with a continued rise in sea level. This post from the Union of Concerned Scientists points out that by the year 2030, we could be seeing a few dozen days of flooding in locations that only flood occasionally today.

Download a PDF of the full report on coastal flooding here.

If you are interested in helping to record high tide events, the next King Tide will be on October 27th and 28th. Go to or download the app to get started.