Monday, April 26, 2010

Water, Water Everywhere but not a Drop to Drink

            Water is central to the life of a child in a Montessori environment.  One  begins with pouring water from one pitcher to another developing hand-eye coordination while experiencing joy in successfully transferring water into the vessel.  Practical Life gives the child ample opportunities to use water to care for oneself (washing hands, washing face, brushing teeth) and to take care of the environment (washing table, washing clothes and scrubbing the floor).  We wash fruits for food preparation, mix water with squeezed lemon to make lemonade and use water to boil eggs or pasta to make spaghetti.
            We use water to explore the sciences: sink and float in physics, dissolving solids in chemistry,  plants need water in biology,  making a river in geology.  For our health, we drink water to keep our lungs moist, to hydrate our brain tissue, to replace the water lost through sweating and to aid in the various functions of the body. 
            As the child moves forward in one’s education, one learns that all life needs water, the first form of life was in water and civilizations were first settled along bodies of water.  There is a diversity of life forms in the oceans and rivers.  We use water for transportation, recreation,  sanitation, source of energy, and in religious rites.  We have come to rely on the water cycle to bring us rain to water our plants and bring us fresh rain water. Water supports life and without water there is no life.

The Water Problem
            Now we are facing a serious challenge with our water. I will categorize these challenges into four:
1)            supply and demand of water
2)            water pollution
3)            loss of wetlands, trees, grassy areas
4)            global warming causing polar ice caps to melt, raise ocean temperature

1)            Supply and demand of water
            With our modern lifestyle, we have developed ways of pumping water, purifying water and bringing it to our homes effortlessly.  All we need to do is to turn on the faucet and we have water.  Only 10% of the potable water brought to our homes is used for cooking and drinking.  90% is used for watering the plants, washing and flushing the toilet.  Literally 90% of the purified water goes down the drain.
            We had formed the notion that the supply of water is limitless.  It is not.  We hardly value water.  The price we pay for water is low compared to what we pay for cable television services or our cellular phone. The price structure encourages indiscriminate use of water.  Add to this the fact that our population is increasing, the demand for water in our modern society puts a strain in our water supply.  The supply is limited but the demand is increasing.  Unless something is done, this leads to shortage of potable water.

2)            The quality of water brought to our homes has been compromised. Toxic substances that have been washed off from industrial waste may have seeped into the waterways which is our water source. Biological contaminants in the form of fecal mater from humans and animals end up in our water source when untreated sewage gets dumped into our waters or when holding lagoons for manure produced in the production of meat from cattle overflows and ultimately end up in the rivers and streams.   Even rain water normally considered the purest form of water could be contaminated with air pollutants thus producing acid rain.  Water polluting our oceans and rivers disturb the variety of life in the water and we perturb the integrity of the ecosystem.

3)            With the building of roads, paving driveways, draining swamps to build homes, we replaced trees, bushes, grass and other plants which absorb water with non-absorbent materials.  This means that rain water instead of being absorbed by plants will run off and carry with it oils and other pollutants on the land to the water source.  Erosion of land occurs when water runs through bare soil bringing with it soil to the water.

4)            Global warming melts the polar ice cap and raises the temperature of the ocean. This is detrimental to the variety of life in the ocean.

What we can do.
1)            Change our mind set and start valuing water, it is finite and the demand on this source has been increasing.  Proper pricing will encourage minimal use of water.
2)            Practice water conservation inside and outside the house
3)            Refrain from eating meat one day or more days a week to slow down meat production which will eventually reduce fecal runoff from manure lagoons
4)            Grow ground covers so no bare spot would be vulnerable to erosion.
5)            Plant more trees, they are the best agent to prevent erosion
6)            With increasing population, we have to seriously think of proper allocation of our water source
7)            Compost food garbage to reduce extra treatment of sewage that ends up in the landfill while returning nutrients to the soil
8)            Grow lawn naturally, allow grass to grow three inches before mowing
9)            Be aware of the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act and be proactive with letters to enforce the provisions and fine violators accordingly
10)         Support local municipalities need to update infrastructure to replace old and outdated pipes to meet current need
            It is our responsibility individually and collectively to maintain the integrity of clean and safe drinking water,  safeguard the oceans, streams, rivers and lakes, engage in activities to promote the health of the planet so life in this planet will continue to flourish.

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