CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- "Water is the driving force of all nature," said Leonardo da Vinci, the iconic Italian Renaissance artist born in 1452.
"We must begin thinking like a river if we are to keep a legacy of beauty and life for future generations," said David Brower, a founder of Friends of the Earth, Sierra Club and League of Conservation Voters.
Their quotes are part of an exhibit assembled late last year by Charleston's Storm Water Department on the first floor of the city's parking garage along McFarland Street.
Lee Ann Grogg, who coordinates public education and outreach for the storm water department, said, "We are connected to our rivers more than we realize. People who boat and fish are tied to the river by those activities. But everybody knows the importance of our water.
"There is no better way than this present crisis to know how important the river is to us. It is really important that people know this. We can live longer without food than we can without water."
With its website, colorful pamphlets and an annual rain barrel contest, Grogg's department encourages people to keep chemicals, silt and other waste products out of our rivers.
"Some storm drains go straight to the river. We are in the process of mapping all our storm drains and sewer drains."
Charleston's Storm Water Department is particularly concerned about protecting streams and rivers from cigarette butts, car oil, grass clippings, fertilizers and other car contaminants.
Greg Robinson, a storm water compliance specialist, said, "We all have to think about this. We make little decisions every day, like what to do with cigarette butts. Every year, 100 billion cigarettes butts end up in our rivers. They have between 50 and 60 toxins in them.
"Construction run-off is a long-term issue. And people who use hoses to clean their cars near storm drains help put mud and fertilizers into rivers."
Silt at the bottom of a river, Robinson said, "encourages the growth of algae, which chokes out oxygen and kills fish.
"Excessive silt chokes eggs in the bottom of a river. When eggs don't hatch, it reduces the number of minnows and small fish in the river," Robinson added.
The Kanawha River is between 40 feet and 50 feet deep. Most fish spawn just eight to 10 feet from the edge of the river, which is shallower.
"We often take water for granted," Grogg said.
Charleston's Storm Water Department distributes nine colorful leaflets describing the problems posed by water pollution and teaching people how to curtail that pollution.