One of the most essential needs for human survival is clean water; without it you cannot survive.
A watershed area is the foundation of the water supply surrounding a particular stream or river. If you allow it to get polluted, you jeopardize the health of everyone who drinks its water. The best way to describe a watershed is that it looks like a naked tree. The top part of the tree, the canopy, is the headwaters area. The tips and the very top branches of the tree are analogous to the small tributaries that make up the headwaters.
These tributaries flow into bigger streams which are analogous to the thicker branches growing from the trunk. The main river corridor is analogous to the tree's trunk. Where the river meets the bay is analogous to the tree trunk meeting the earth. It is a large hydraulic system.
In the Brandywine Valley, at the beginning of colonial settlement, Lenape Indians and early European settlers could lie on their stomachs and drink from the Brandywine. It was pristine, pure, cold water. Fast forward to 2011; the population in the headwaters of the east branch of the Brandywine north of Downingtown is over 50,000 people.
Now due to lawn treatment chemicals from residential homes and golf courses, and industrial and agricultural pollutants you do not dare drink water directly from the stream. Even though the headwater areas are vital for protecting water quality and quantity, it is important to protect the entire watershed area to ensure safe drinking water. Any dangerous chemicals or pollutants introduced into the stream anywhere in the stream corridor will be detrimental to everyone downstream from that point.
The further from farm fields and housing developments where fertilizers and other chemicals can get into the water, the more pure the water remains.
The focus in this article is on the upper east branch between Honey Brook and Downingtown. This area is targeted for heavy residential development which will threaten the integrity of this water. The bad economy is the only thing that has prevented this area from getting trounced so far. Development converts water filtration areas into water runoff areas by replacing natural land with impervious rooftops and driveways. Protecting this watershed is vital to assure safe drinking water for hundreds of thousands of Chester County residents.
Over many years conservationists struggled to protect this watershed but industrial and residential development trumped many preservation efforts. There just hasn't been enough public concern or knowledge about the watershed's importance to protect it -- until perhaps now.
What might that be, you ask? Beer! Not just any beer, but possibly the finest beer on the planet. Victory Brewery in Downingtown, an internationally respected brewery, whose Prima Pils, chosen by The New York Times as the number one, world's best Pilsner is totally dependent on the water quality of the Upper East Branch of the Brandywine to maintain its quality.
If every lover of Victory beer realized just how utterly reliant the protection of this watershed is to assure the impeccable quality of that beautiful cold golden-amber flow from the tap to their glass, they would protect this watershed with life and limb. Beer loyalists are like this, you know.
Now this is not an advertisement for Victory Brewery, but knowing how fervent beer lovers are, and considering that nothing else seems to have worked, can you imagine an organization called Beer Drinkers United for Watershed Protection rising up and organizing, raising money, and lobbying the government to designate the upper east branch an exceptional value stream?
Imagine signs along roads that read, "You are now Entering the Victory Brewery Watershed Area." Beer lovers rise up! Protect your watershed! Protect your beer!
(Richard Whiteford of Downingtown is an environmental communications consultant.)