We are a small Episcopal Church on the banks of the Rappahannock in Port Royal, Virginia. We acknowledge that we gather on the traditional land of the first people of Port Royal, the Nandtaughtacund, who are still here, and we honor with gratitude the land itself and the life of the Rappahannock Tribe. Our mission statement is to do God’s Will in all that we do.

Season of Creation – Water

“8 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. 10 For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater.”

– Isaiah 55:9-10

Water is a local, regional, national and international resource. We will be concentrating on local issues:

  • What is the importance of water? What are the major issues with water ?
  • Our major water source is the Rappahannock River. What condition is it in ?
  • What we have done with water at St. Peter’s
  • What can we do in your houses ?
  • What are some of the other issues outside our environment – such as water justice ?

The Importance of Water

From National Geographic – “Water is a renewable resource. We will not run out of water the way we might run out of fossil fuels. The amount of water on Earth always remains the same. However, most of the planet’s water is unavailable for human use. While more than 70 percent of the Earth’s surface is covered by water, only 2.5 percent of it is freshwater. Out of that freshwater, almost 70 percent is permanently frozen in the ice caps covering Antarctica and Greenland. Only about 1 percent of the freshwater on Earth is available for people to use for drinking, bathing, and irrigating crops.”

Water is a major player at St. Peter’s. It helped to divide St. Mary’s Parish established in 1748 from St. Paul’s Parish in King George.

Port Royal got its economic life from water – being on the river and becoming a royal port, located at the head of the navigable reach of the Rappahannock River for export of tobacco. The Rappahannock, Potomac, James and York were major highways of transportation that made colonial Virginia. In terms of conservation, Port Royal is part of the Rappahannock Watershed, one of 13 such watersheds in Virginia.

Besides providing a vital economy, water provides the lifeblood of the living community. What do plants, animals and various organisms have in common ? Water!

Water links and maintains all ecosystems on the planet. From sciencing.com: “The main function of water is to propel plant growth; provide a permanent dwelling for species that live within it, or provide a temporary home or breeding ground for multiple amphibians, insects and other water-birthed organisms; and to provide the nutrients and minerals necessary to sustain physical life.” It has its own cycle like carbon or phosphorus.

From sciencing.com: “Within humans, water helps to transport oxygen, minerals, nutrients and waste products to and from the cells. The digestive system needs water to function properly, and water lubricates the mucous layers in the respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts.”

As nature’s most important nutrient, people need water to survive. Droughts affect our crops which can shut down life. Too much water creates floods which can have the same effect. Much of our environment is affected by events further up the river, such as excessive rain in the Piedmont.. In June, 2018 this area was affected by the worst flooding in 20 years.

Improper or over development by humans can bring about a slow death of a river and all that we get from it – recreation, food and retreat. The failure to actively manage our Rappahannock watershed can be significant.

Focus on water in the Bible

  1. Creation – Water is a primal force of creation . The Old Testament create story describes the earth as nothing but darkness but with the Spirit of God “hovering over the waters.”
  2. Cleansing -The story of Noah shows God cleansing the earth with a great flood. Water sometimes symbolizes the spiritual cleansing that comes with the acceptance of God’s offer of salvation ( Ezek 36:25 ; Eph 5:26 ; Heb 10:22 ). In fact, in Ephesians 5:26, the “water” that does the cleansing of the bride, the church, is directly tied in with God’s Word, of which it is a symbol. The story of Noah shows God cleansing the earth with a great flood. In John 4:10-15, part of Jesus’ discourse with the Samaritan woman at the well, he speaks metaphorically of his salvation as “living water” and as “a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
  3. Rebirth – Water is very present in Baptism. Baptism means immersion or bath in Greek. The immersion cleanses the person of sin and provides rebirth into Christian life. In both the Old and New Testaments, the word “water” is used for salvation and eternal life, which God offers humankind through faith in his Son ( Isa 12:3 ; 55:1 ; Rev 21:6 ; Revelation 22:1 Revelation 22:2 Revelation 22:17 ).

Nicodemus understood Jesus that one must have two births to enter the Kingdom of God – one’s natural birth in which water plays a major role and the birth by the Spirit to be the supernatural birth of being “born again” or regenerated.

  1. Troublesome times – The word “water” is used in a variety of metaphorical ways in Scripture. It is used to symbolize the troublesome times in life that can and do come to human beings, especially God’s children ( Psalm 32:6 ; Psalms 69:1 Psalms 69:2 Psalms 69:14 Psalms 69:15 ; Isa 43:2 ; Lam 3:54 ). In some contexts water stands for enemies who can attack and need to be overcome ( 2 Sam 22:17-18 ; Psalm 18:16-17 ; 124:4-5 ; 144:7 ; Isa 8:7 ; Jer 47:2 ).
  2. Water a symbol of the Holy Spirit – In a very important passage, Jesus identifies the “streams of living water” that flow from within those who believe in him with the Holy Spirit ( John 7:37-39 ). The reception of the Holy Spirit is clearly the special reception that was going to come after Jesus had been glorified at the Father’s right hand and happened on the Day of Pentecost as described in Acts 2. Two times in Jeremiah Yahweh is metaphorically identified as “the spring of living water” ( Jer 2:13 ; 17:13 ). In both instances Israel is rebuked for having forsaken the Lord for other cisterns that could in no way satisfy their “thirst.”

5 In other passages of Scripture, the following are said metaphorically to be “water”: God’s help ( Isa 8:6 : “the gently flowing waters of Shiloah” ); God’s judgment ( Isa 28:17 : “water will overflow your hiding place” ); man’s words ( Prov 18:4 : “The words of man’s mouth are deep waters” ); man’s purposes ( Prov 20:5 : “The purposes of a man’s heart are deep waters” ); an adulterous woman ( Prov 9:17 : “Stolen water is sweet” ); and a person’s posterity ( Isa 48:1 : “Listen to this, O house of Jacob, who are called by the name of Israel and have come forth out of the line [waters] of Judah” ).

Friends of the Rappahannock

The Friends of the Rappahannock is the main group in the area for advocacy, preservation and education about the Rappahannock River. A recent article in the Free Lance-Star showed their role in education. Students became involved in analyzing the water to determine quality “Students analyzed abiotic factors including temperature, turbidity, dissolved oxygen and pH. The macroinvertebrates, or insect larvae, collected were sorted and classified according to their ability to tolerate impurities in the water.”

They have provided report cards of the river’s quality, including our area around Portobago. This was a 14 month project that ended in mid-year, 2018. The study broke concerns and problems into four different topics: stream ecology, human health, land use and community engagement. Each gets its own letter grade in the report in these four areas. Portobago Bay came out with a “B” overall above the Middle Rappahannock grade as a whole at “C”:

  1. Human Health – “B+”. The Middle Rappahannock area came with a “B”
    A. Bacteria – 7% of stream miles have unsafe bacteria count – “C”
    B. No Fish consumption advisories. What percent of this tributary’s stream have unsafe levels of chemicals in fish – “A”
    C. Any contaminated sites? No – “Pass”
    D. Recreational health risk – Any public access points have levels of bacteria unsafe for recreation ? No – “Pass”
  2. Land use. The grade was slightly worse – “B-” The Middle Rappahannock came out with a “D+”
    A. Forest-Impervious Ratio – How much forest is present in relation to impervious services – “A” 49:2:1 forest-impervious ration
    B. Open Space Protection – What percent of undeveloped land in the watershed is protected ? – 90.1% of open spaces are under protection – “A”
    C. Agricultural BMP (“Best Management Practices”) – 22.6% of farmland treated by year, average 2007-2017. “B”
    D. Residential BMP – How many residential BMP’s have been installed per capita per year? – “F” None installed in last 3 years
  3. Stream Ecology – “B”. The Middle Rappahannock came out with a “C+”
    A. “What percent of the stream miles have aquatic life that is heavily disturbed ?” – “D” 19.2% of stream-miles listed as impaired for aquatic life
    B. “What percent of the watershed are impervious services?” – .5% of land within 300 feet of perennial streams are impervous -“A”
    C. “What percent of the watershed are forested?”- .5% of land within 300 feet of perennial streams are forested – “A”
    D. “What percent of the watershed’s open spaces are protected?”- “A”
    97% of 300 foot buffers around perennial streams protected.
  4. Community Engagement – We did worse in community engagement with a “C” with 0% of the road crossings marked. The Middle Rappahannock came out slightly worse at “C-“
    A.” Is there a publicly accessible park or trail adjacent to the tributary?” – “Pass”
    B. Watershed education – “How many public school students has received watershed education ?” – “N/A”
    C. “How many river cleanups completed ?” “N/A”
    D. Road crossing signage -“How many road crossings on this tributary are marked with the stream name?” – “F” -none

You can download the full report card here.

The Rappahannock as an Impaired River

A Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) is a regulatory tool and process that establishes the maximum amount of a pollutant allowed in a waterbody and serves as the starting point for restoring water quality.

The Rappahannock River is one of the major tributaries to the Chesapeake Bay and therefore is a contributor of pollution to the Chesapeake Bay. The bay is listed as impaired due to excess Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Sediments. This means the Rappahannock River is impaired due to these pollutants.

The Rappahannock River also has multiple other impairments for different stretches of the main stem of the Rappahannock River and many of its tributaries. Each of these impairments can be for one of many pollutants and can be in a different stage of the TMDL process.

At Portobago Bay -Segment begins at the confluence of two intermittent tributaries around rivermile 6.66 and extends downstream to the end of the free-flowing waters. : Assessment: E. coli bacteria criterion excursions (3 of 11 samples – 27.3%) from station 3-PBC003.09 at Route 17

For more information see this link.

Water at St. Peter’s

Earlier in 2018, we installed a rain barrel with the help of Robert Bryan. It was installed to catch rainwater run off from the roof of the parish house. From the Parish Post

“Consider installing a rain barrel at your house. Rainwater is better for your plants and soil. Rainwater is highly oxygenated, free of the salts, inorganic ions, and fluoride compounds contained in tap water. Use of rainwater in your garden dilutes this impact, making plants more drought-tolerant, healthy, and strong. You’ll have your own water source in times of drought or watering restrictions. You’ll help to reduce runoff pollution. When it rains, runoff picks up soil, fertilizer, oil, pesticides and other contaminants and pushes them into other areas of the landscape. These pollutants can increase algae growth in lakes, alter the habitat for fish, and even make lakes and oceans dangerous for recreational activities. Your water collecting stops some of this damaging flow. You’ll contribute to erosion prevention efforts. You’ll cut down on the amount of water that must undergo expensive and energy intensive sewage treatments. You’ll have a fresh, green way to wash your cars and pets. You’ll help control moisture levels around the foundations of your home. Collecting rainwater before it hits ground levels will help to prevent flooding, damp, and mold. You can reduce your water bill. Garden and lawn watering accounts for 40 percent of residential water use during the summer, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Thanks to a rain barrel’s water catch, the typical gardener can save 1,300 gallons of water during the growing season.”

We also participated in a water exhibit, “Water Ways” at the Fredericksburg museum on February 10, 2018. Here is a photo gallery from that day

What else can we do as a Church ?

  1. Get moving! Adopt the Rappahannock as a watershed

Prayer,  reflection, retreat and picking up trash along the river. The children did this on their nature hike in June. The Ruritans have also done it as a group. We should also do our share.

Organize activities and education around local bodies of water, such as a cleanup, water testing,adopting your watershed or setting aside a time for prayer, reflection or a retreat.  Not only will these activities help to protect oft-neglected natural areas, but they will also provide your members with an emotional and tangible connection to water conservation.

  1. Install faucet flow restrictors.

Faucet flow restrictors (also called aerators) reduce the flow of water from a faucet by at least 20% while maintaining the same water pressure.  These restrictors are inexpensive, can be bought at nearly any home improvement store, and are extremely easy to install. 

Related to this are the use of Mesh aerators for your sink faucets which mix air with water in order to reduce the amount of water lost but still provide decent water pressure.  Likewise, you can easily reduce the amount of water wasted with each toilet flush by placing a plastic bottle filled with sand or pebbles into the toilet tank. This will displace some of the water so that less is flushed needlessly down the drain.

  1. Replace your old toilet, or install a toilet tank bank.

The upstairs toilet in the Parish House. Has it been checked.?

Consider replacing toilets with models that achieve 1.3 gallons per flush or less, and are EPA Water Sense certified.  If replacing your toilet is infeasible, you can easily install a toilet tank bank, available through Niagara Conservation.  Like the common brick method, this simple gadget allows you to use less water per flush immediately through water displacement.

Put a few drops of food coloring in the tank of your toilets. If it seeps into the water in the bowl, you have a leak that needs to be fixed.

  1. Eliminate bottled water.

From pumping the water, to creating the plastic bottle, and shipping the bottle to your favorite store, bottled water leaves a big carbon footprint in its wake. GreenFaith recommends eliminating bottled water whenever possible, and replacing it with filtered tap water. 

  1. Make your landscape water-friendly.

Lawns and exotic ornamental plants are often the standard landscape at religious institutions, and contribute significantly to an institution’s water footprint. Native plants, or those plants that thrive well in your climate and are historically native to your region, can keep your landscape beautiful without the need for additional water resources. 

  1. Review water bill trends for changing trends

What can you do?

“Water stress” refers to the ability, or lack thereof, to meet human and ecological demand for water. Compared to scarcity, “water stress” is a more inclusive and broader concept. It considers several physical aspects related to water resources, including water scarcity, but also water quality, environmental flows, and the accessibility of water.

In 1990, 30 states in the US reported ‘water-stress’ conditions. In 2000, the number of states reporting water-stress rose to 40. In 2009, the number rose to 45. There is a worsening trend in water supply nationwide. Taking measures at home to conserve water not only saves you money, it also is of benefit to the greater community

In the Kitchen

1 Turn off faucets.Start saving by breaking a bad habit: Never let faucet water run needlessly as you wash or rinse dishes, wash your hands or face, brush your teeth or shave. Bathroom faucets run at about 2 gallons of water a minute, according to the EPA. Turn off the tap while you brush your teeth and shave, and you can save hundreds of gallons a month.

Tip: Be sure to fix leaks. A slow drip from a leaking faucet can waste as much as 20 gallons of water a day. A leaky toilet can waste 200 gallons a day.

2  Use every drop.Learn to repurpose water. One easy way is to capture under your colander the potable water you use to rinse fruits and veggies, and deposit it in the garden. Do the same while you wait for your hot water to come in.

3  Double-dip dishes.Take a page from the past and make smart use of dual sinks. Instead of letting the water run while you wash dishes, fill one sink with hot, soapy water for washing, and the other with cool, clear water for rinsing. You’ll use half the water you otherwise would, according to the EPA. If your sink is a single model, use two large bowls for washing and rinsing.

4 Minimize Use of Kitchen Sink Garbage Disposal Units
In-sink ‘garburators’ require lots of water to operate properly, and also add considerably to the volume of solids in a septic tank, which can lead to maintenance problems. Start a compost pile as an alternate method of disposing food waste.

5 Opt for the Dishwasher Over Hand Washing
It may seem counterintuitive, but it turns out washing dishes by hand uses a lot more water than running the dishwasher, even more so if you have a water-conserving model. The EPA estimates an efficient dishwasher uses half as much water, saving close to 5,000 gallons each year.

6 Keep a Bottle of Drinking Water in the Fridge
Running tap water to cool it off for drinking water is wasteful. Store drinking water in the fridge in a safe drinking bottle. If you are filling water bottles to bring along on outdoor hikes, consider buying a LifeStraw personal water filter, which enables users to drink water safely from rivers or lakes or any available body of water.

7 Don’t Let the Faucet Run While You Clean Vegetables
Just rinse them in a stoppered sink or a pan of clean water

In the bathroom

1 Shorten your showers.Use a kitchen timer to time your showers. Aim for five minutes or less.

One way to cut down on water use is to turn off the shower after soaping up, then turn it back on to rinse. A fo

2  ToiletsBuy an Adjustable Toilet Flapper
Installing an adjustable toilet flapper will allow for adjustment of each per flush use; the user can adjust the flush rate to the minimum per flush setting that achieves a single good flush each time.

3 Put Plastic Bottles or a Float Booster in Your Toilet Tank
To cut down on water waste, put an inch or two of sand or pebbles inside each of two plastic bottles. Fill the bottles with water, screw the lids on, and put them in your toilet tank, safely away from the operating mechanisms. Or, buy an inexpensive tank bank or float booster. This may save ten or more gallons of water per day. Be sure at least three gallons of water remain in the tank so it will flush properly. If there is not enough water to get a proper flush, users will hold the lever down too long or do multiple flushes to get rid of waste. Two flushes at 1.4 gallons are worse than a single 2 gallon flush.

4 Install Water-Saving Showerheads, Shower Timers, and Low-Flow Faucet Aerators 
Inexpensive water saving low-flow showerheads for restrictors are easy for the homeowner to install. Long showers can use five to ten gallons every unneeded minute. “Low-flow” means+ it uss less than 2.5 gallons per minute

Otherwise in the home

1 Insulate Your Water Pipes
It’s easy and inexpensive to insulate your water pipes with pre-slit foam pipe insulation. You’ll get hot water faster plus avoid wasting water while it heats up.

2 Recycle Your Water Where You Can
Collect the cold water you run before it’s hot enough to shower and use it to water plants or flush the toilet (known as a bucket flush). Rinse water from dishes and food preparation can be collected and used to soak other dishes.

3 Eat Less Water-Intensive Foods
Our diets account for roughly half of all the water we use. All food has a water footprint, but some are much larger than others. Eating less beef, one of the most water-intensive foods, is a smart place to start. Shifting away from animal products to a plant-based diet can shrink your water footprint significantly.

4 Use Your Water Meter to Check for Hidden Water Leaks
Read the house water meter before and after a two-hour period when no water is being used. If the meter does not read exactly the same, there is a leak.

5 Check Faucets and Pipes for Leaks
A small drip from a worn faucet washer can waste 20 gallons of water per day. Larger leaks can waste hundreds of gallons. Some faucet leaks are easily spotted, but others take a little more effort to locate. Dry sinks and tubs thoroughly and allow to sit for an hour. If you notice wetness, you’ve found a leak. To find leaks from faucet handles, dry the area around them before running water. You’ll see water collecting next to them if there’s a leak.]

6 Fit Household Faucets with aerators
This easy and effective home water conservation method is also the cheapest! A simple low-flow aerator saves water in the bathroom, while a swiveling aerator can serve multiple purposes in the kitchen

In the outdoors

1 Get smart about irrigation.And speaking of watering the garden, residential landscape irrigation has come a long way. Consider investing in weather-based irrigation controllers that adjust to real weather conditions and provide water only when needed. Replace older mist-style sprinkler heads with today’s newer, and more efficient, rotator sprinkler heads, which shoot jets of waters at a slow rate to increase penetration and eliminate drift

2 Don’t Run the Hose While Washing Your Car

Clean the car using a pail of soapy water. Use the hose only for rinsing; this simple practice can save as much as 100 gallons when washing a car. Use a spray nozzle when rinsing for more efficient use of water. Better yet, use a waterless car washing system; there are several brands, such as Eco Touch, which are now on the market.

3 Use a Broom, Not a Hose, to Clean Driveways and Sidewalks

Blasting leaves or stains off your walkways with water is one way to remove them, but brushing with a broom to first loosen the dirt and grime will decrease your water use and save you time in the long run.

4 Put a Layer of Mulch Around Trees and Plants
Mulch will slow evaporation of moisture while discouraging weed growth. Adding 2 – 4 inches of organic material such as compost or bark mulch will increase the ability of the soil to retain moisture. Press the mulch down around the drip line of each plant to form a slight depression, which will prevent or minimize water runoff.
5 Position Sprinklers Carefully
Position your sprinklers so water lands on the lawn or garden, not on paved areas. Also, avoid watering on windy days.

6 Water During the Early Parts of the Day; Avoid Watering When It Is Windy
Early morning is generally better than dusk since it helps prevent the growth of fungus. Early watering and late watering also reduce water loss to evaporation. Watering early in the day is also the best defense against slugs and other garden pests. Try not to water when it’s windy: wind can blow sprinklers off target and speed evaporation. An automated watering system with a built-in moisture sensor can help ensure you’re only watering when necessary and at the most efficient time of day. If you’re using a timer, consider adding a rain or moisture sensor to avoid watering unnecessarily.

7 Add Organic Matter to Your Garden Beds
Adding organic material to your soil will help increase its absorption and water retention. Areas that are already planted can be ‘top dressed’ with compost or organic matter every year. Turn a healthy dose of compost into new garden beds when preparing the soil for planting.

8 Water Your Lawn Only When It Needs It
A good way to see if your lawn needs watering is to step on the grass. If it springs back up when you move, it doesn’t need water. If it stays flat, the lawn is ready for watering. Letting the grass grow taller (to 3″) will also promote water retention in the soil.

9. Water by hand.Consider hand watering if you have a small garden area. Households that manually water with a hose typically use 33 percent less water outdoors than those that use an automatic irrigation system, according to the EPA.

Water Justice

From Wikipedia

“Water justice refers to the access of individuals to clean water. More specifically, the access of individuals to clean water for survival (drinking, fishing, etc.) and recreational purposes as a human right.

“Water and sanitation for all provided in an equitable and sustainable way is central to global justice for poor women and men. Despite successive global declarations and efforts, hundreds of millions still suffer from lack of access. Simplistic portrayals of water and sanitation ‘crises’ have often led to misunderstandings on the nature of the problem and how to address it. The result has been a failure to centralize the needs and interests of the poor and marginalized within different solutions.

“A simultaneous increase in demand and decreasing availability of water are leading to an intensification of competition and conflicts, worsening existing water-based inequalities. Globalization and climate change has favored some actors’ access and control of water at the expense of others— threatening their water and food security.

“Water justice promotes the regulation of corporations from polluting water, and impeding them from restricting access, in any way, to bodies of water that may provide clean water for drinking, fishing, leisure, etc. Water justice is often reached through activism, social media, outreach; through the law; through the pressure imposed by interest groups and lobbyists on elected officials; and by educating the public on the multifaceted importance of water justice.

“The issue of water justice is considered a relatively recent one in human history: before the 19th century Industrial Revolution, people lived more in harmony with their immediate environment. As industrialization has spread around the globe, so the problem of contamination and diminishing access to water has spread with it. As Earth’s population continues to grow, people are putting ever-increasing pressure on the planet’s water resources. In a sense, the world’s oceans, rivers, and other inland waters are being harmed by human activities.

“Over the past few decades, the increase in population and advances made in technology have increased the relevance of water justice. Water pollution has many different causes and this is one of the reasons why it is a difficult problem to solve. Surface waters and groundwater are the two types of water resources that pollution affects the most. If pollution comes from a single location, it is known as point source pollution. A great deal of water pollution happens not from one single source but from many different scattered sources. This is called non-point source pollution. Among the different sources of both point and non-point water contamination, nutrients, waste water, sewage, chemical waste, radioactive waste, oil pollution and plastics are the most common, for example.”