Rivers are roads which move, and which carry us whither we desire to go.
In last week’s post on rivers and canals, we primarily focused on the commercially navigable rivers and canals in the US, and a few commercial or industrial uses for unnavigable waters.
Fortunately for the United States, rivers are so much more than “roads which move.” In addition to the hydroelectricity generation and commercial transport uses for rivers, a good portion of our drinking water comes from a stream or river. According to the US EPA, about 117 million people, over one third of the total U.S. population, get some or all of their drinking water from public drinking water systems that “rely at least in part on intermittent, ephemeral, or headwater streams.” Another full third of the population rely on rivers as the primary source for their drinking water. With over 3.5 million river miles alone in the US, it’s easy to see why our streams and rivers are such a huge supply of our public drinking water.
Our rivers and streams also have many recreational purposes. America’s rivers that are physically navigable by canoe, kayak, and raft are in the public domain, up to the high water mark. Fishermen, bird watchers, photographers, artists, boaters, kayakers, rafters and campers alike take advantage of our rivers and riverbanks year round.
Blaise Pascal was certainly correct in his poetic view of rivers, but whether your “road” is commercial, industrial, adventurous, or a scenic escape for a few-day vacation, nearly every American is influenced, inspired, or affected by rivers.