March 18, 2013

How We Threaten Our Own Water Supply. ~ Julie Hancher

Photo: Alejandra Mavroski

“We never know the worth of water till the well is dry.” ~ Thomas Fuller

When I was only four or five years old, I was trained to just rinse my toothbrush at the beginning of brushing my teeth and after I was finished.

Running the water throughout the duration of getting my pearly whites clean never even crossed my mind. In recent years as I’ve grown more aware of my water footprint, I didn’t understand how saving water in my hometown of Philadelphia was relevant to Africa’s dire need of water.

We learned it in third grade science—doesn’t water come into your faucets, go back into the ground and evaporate for us to reuse? It’s the ultimate renewable resource, and we’ve been drinking the same water that the dinosaurs drank. If T-rex survived (until a meteor hit), why should we panic?

We live in such an ironic time. In many ways, we’ve grown accustomed to unpronounceable chemicals in our household items and beauty products, not knowing what’s in our food and accepting company-suggested medicines and lifestyles as truth. However, there’s also a movement that’s aware of what we’re doing to ourselves and trying to resist change to go back to the ‘old’ ways.

Water is the essential piece of life that we all depend on and need.

Yet we’ve taken advantage of this resource by bottling it in plastic, hoarding it for cheap fashion and material objects and taken millions of gallons of it to extract natural gas from the earth. Sometimes I feel as if I’m taking crazy pills that no one connects the dots of all of these actions, considering the potential consequences.

As World Water Day (observed on March 22nd) promotes initiatives for the world’s water sources, it’s important that we reflect on the dangers to our most valuable resource.

What are the biggest dangers to our water supplies?

“Fracking” or hydraulic fracturing. One to eight million gallons of water may be used to frack a well, and a well may be fracked up to 18 times. Up to 144 million gallons of water could potentially be used to frack one natural gas well. The process of fracking has been proven to polluting underground water as well, seeping up from the gas wells.

Mountaintop removal coal mining is Appalachia pollutes the streams and rivers, making them dangerous for fish, aquatic life and humans. The mountaintop removal process releases toxic metals like cadmium, selenium, arsenic and others, leading to higher incidents of cancer, heart disease, kidney disease, birth defects, premature morality and other issues.

Pharmaceuticals and chemicals. Acetaminophen, DEET, butalbital and other chemicals were found in New York’s drinking water supply. Estrogen from birth control pills and other sources have entered the water supply. Possible side effects from estrogen include links to human fertility problems.

Climate change will likely affect our water supply, altering the timing of our snows and spring rains. Rising water levels will destroy property and train freshwater supplies with salt.

Yet one of the biggest threats to our water supply could be taking advantage of water as if we believe it is endless.

Although most of us are mindful to our water footprint, a simple leak, faulty toilet handle or taking half-hour showers can potentially lose thousands of gallons of water. Water wars have already begun around the world, and in the U.S. like at the Tennessee-Georgia border. As Alex Prud’homme, author of the Ripple Effect, predicts—the next great war will be over water.

What can we do about it? It’s crucial that we are start in our own homes, observing where the biggest water wastes come from. We don’t have to wash every piece of clothing after wearing it once or wash our hair every shower. Perhaps homeowners will think twice before digging their own swimming pool, instead joining a local community club.

Outside threats from companies, oil and gas industry and more continue to threaten our water supply, and it’s essential to vote with our dollars and communicate with political representatives. But let’s all start by looking in the mirror.

Julie Hancher is author of Green Philly Blog, where she guides people to recycle more, eat local and find sustainable events. Her cat Pounce DeLeon is her newest editor and is concerned about the drinking supply for kitten generations to come. Contact her at [email protected].


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Ed: Lynn Hasselberger

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