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Fresh water: turning the tide on ocean pollution.

Imagine you head to the beach and find a sign: "Water Polluted--No Swimming Allowed." That's what happened to actor Ted Danson in 1984. The experience changed his life. Frustrated that his daughters (then aged 5 and 10) couldn't plunge into the ocean the way he had as a teen, Danson founded the American Oceans Campaign, an organization aimed at protecting Earth's oceans and coastal waters.

"Our oceans feed the world, cool our planet, regulate climate, and create nearly one-half of the global oxygen supply," Danson says. He's not kidding: Fish are the main source of dietary protein for nearly 1 billion people--most of them in developing nations. Oceans absorb and radiate the Sun's heat to help keep Earth's temperature in balance. Phytoplankton (microscopic plants) that live on the ocean's surface take in carbon dioxide to make food-- and the precious oxygen we need to breathe.

"Yet each day, billions of gallons of sewage, pesticides, and industrial chemicals flow into the sea," Danson says. According to a United Nations report on the marine environment, about 80 percent of all marine pollution comes from human activities (like farming and driving) on land.

Even if you live hundreds of miles from the nearest seashore, Danson adds, ocean pollution affects you. That's because, each day, Earth's atmosphere recycles billions of kiloliters of salty seawater and turns it into fresh water. Molecules of ocean water evaporate and rise into the atmosphere. There they condense and precipitate--fall to Earth as rain or snow. This fresh water collects in rivers, streams, and lakes, or trickles down to underground aquifers (water deposits in rock beds). These are the main sources of our drinking water.

Human activities--like mining, forest clearing, farming, and manufacturing--pollute these freshwater sources, too. But it's not too late to turn the tide, Danson says. You can help by conserving water and working to keep it clean. Some ideas:

* Organize a beach cleanup.

* Write to Congress and urge your state's senators and representatives to protect waterways.

* Conserve water in your home by fixing leaky faucets and using low-flow shower heads and toilets.

Learn more about water by checking out the graphs, charts, and resources on these pages.
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Title Annotation:includes statistics on water and list of information sources
Author:Stiefel, Chana Freiman
Publication:Science World
Date:Apr 11, 1997
Previous Article:Endangered species: fur, fins, and fame.
Next Article:Troublesome trash: the big cleanup.

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