This morning, I was washing dishes at my sink, liberally rinsing the soap from my rice pot, and being grateful for the privilege of washing dishes. Here in America, I have the luxury of water available to use as I please. Not everyone on planet Earth has this luxury. About one billion people lack access to clean water and 38,000 children under the age of five die each week from unsafe drinking water and unsanitary conditions.
If we had that many children dying in America each week, we would set up a foundation and have a race to find the cure.
Today is Blog Action Day for water (http://blogactionday.change.org). On this day, bloggers all over the world have agreed to write and post a blog today about water and the water issues we face on planet Earth.
Water is liquid life – invisible magical particles that exist in the air, glittering crystals in snow and ice, and the marvelous unity of blue in the rivers and oceans that cover the Earth. It ranks right up there with oxygen – you can have all the oxygen in the world, but if you don’t have water, your chances of surviving beyond a day or two are pretty slim.
Water is a universal solvent. It has both positive and negative polarities making it cling to anything with a charge, including itself. Buddhists admonish us to live softly like water, yet it was water that cut the great and beautiful cliffs and valleys of the Grand Canyon.
We cannot make water. It is like trying to grow a dinosaur. In college, my environmental science professor said, “You can put a whole bunch of hydrogen and oxygen together in a sealed room and it will be a really, really long time before you get any water, if ever.”
Water makes up about 70 percent of the earth’s surface, but 97.5 percent of all water on Earth is salt water, leaving only 2.5 percent as fresh water. Nearly 70 percent of that fresh water is frozen in the polar icecaps. Most of the remaining water is in the soil and in deep underground aquifers and is not accessible for human use.
That makes less than 1 percent of the world’s fresh water (about 0.007 percent of all water on earth) available for human consumption. This is the water found in lakes, rivers, reservoirs, and underground aquifers that are shallow and close enough to the surface for us to access. Water in these areas is regularly renewed by rain and snowfall, and can be sustained. However, the water cycle is a closed cycle – meaning that the same water is constantly recycled. On one hand, this is good news: simply keep the water clean and we can use it over and over. The bad news is that we are not getting any new water.
Every item that humans manufacture requires water. Every single one. It takes 1,500 liters of water just to make a T-shirt. Water fuels the energy systems of America. Every day, more than 500 billion liters of fresh water travel through our power plants—more than twice what flows through the Nile River. Think about that before you buy that next useless trinket or the cell phone with more gadgets that you could ever learn to use in your lifetime.
If we keep using water the way we have been, that lifetime will get pretty short.
©2010 by Barbara L. Kass