Andy Hill is the Watauga Riverkeeper, which is coordinated locally via MountainTrue.

This time of year, I’m shopping for holiday gifts. I’ve decided to give the very essence of life, something that we often ignore — clean water. Okay, I can almost hear your eyes rolling. Hang in here with me for a moment; you might end up agreeing with me.

Across the High Country, thousands of creeks and streams drain over 11,000 square miles. What finds its way into our creeks eventually rolls down and across our state providing water for millions of North Carolinians.

A dizzying array of materials flow into our streams: the drumbeat of studies reporting the dangers of plastic bottles, prescription medicine, industrial waste, fertilizer runoff, cigarette filters and micro plastics overwhelms me on a daily basis. But the biggest pollutant threatening North Carolina’s waters is so much more mundane — it’s sediment. Otherwise known as mud.

How can this be?

Since the beginning of time particles of soil, plants and inorganic material have washed into streams and creeks. When too much material finds its way to a stream bank, or when the water is blocked and doesn’t flow freely, or when too much water crashes down during a flood, a stream’s ability to flush out these materials is diminished, allowing sediment to build up.

Once started, sediment buildup can quickly change water chemistry, degrading a river’s ability to support life, both in the water and along its banks.

That’s why Andy Hill has a row boat full of truck tires.

Andy works for MountainTrue; with offices in Asheville, Hendersonville and Boone, MountainTrue fights for clean water and resilient forests across Western North Carolina. Among his many roles, Andy Hill is the Watauga Riverkeeper. He is part of a national network of Riverkeepers, people who protect our rivers. That can mean Andy puts on a tie to talk with local politicians or pulls on wading boots to haul trash out of a stream — whatever it takes to get the job done.

The High Country enjoys some of the cleanest water in our state, and MountainTrue helps keep it that way. This year I’m giving memberships in MountainTrue as gifts to the people who matter to me, because simple things, like water, are important and worth protecting.

You can find out more at MountainTrue.org.

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Absent from their gardens, Kit and Lise enjoy roaming our region exploring the intersection of horticulture and suburban living. More on Instagram @AbsenteeGardener or email: info@absentee-gardener.com.

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