Water, we need to use it again and use less experts say. Six billion humans are putting a strain on our fresh water resources while only a small fraction of Earth’s water is available
for drinking, irrigation or industrial use. Sandra Postel, of the Global Water
Policy Project, said that China and India’s grain production will be reduced by 10 to 20 percent in the coming decades due to groundwater depletion. The once mighty Yellow River in China, the Nile, Ganges and several Colorado Rivers barely reach the sea in dry
season. Mother Nature’s liquid life is drying up.
Agriculture takes 70 percent of water whereas only 10 percent of water consumed worldwide is for household use. Worldwide, two-thirds of urban wastewater doesn’t even get treated, much less recycled and this certainly needs to change. The problem put
simply is – there is not enough water to meet the demands nor is the water adequately clean.
It is imperative that this challenge be addressed as Earth’s population increases and food needs soar. By 2025 it is estimated there will be an additional 2 billion planetary people.
How can we work together to responsibly utilize and conserve our fresh water for the coming generations? This is a huge question to ponder. First let us more deeply appreciate this precious life-giving gift. Let us not take even one drop for granted and be willing to be informed of what is really going on.
My Personal Story – The BP Oil Spill – Spring & Summer 2010
I grew up in the Baltimore with access to the Chesapeake Bay Area, one of the most unusual estuaries in the world. During my childhood our neighborhood was very communal. Our families often joined in work, parties and vacations together. Several times each summer we formed a caravan and drove either to the bay beaches or Ocean City Maryland for fun and swimming. Wherever I was and up until just recently, I relished immersing myself in natural water. Even in cold weather I would peel off my socks and shoes just to get a toe in the stream. I love the feeling of water.
In 2005 I began my exodus from living in the now crowded Baltimore area. I moved to a mellow town on the Atlantic Ocean in Florida to be near the beloved ocean. I am a mermaid at heart, floating and diving in the sea and collecting seashells with intense absorption. That is until the BP oil spill in the spring of 2010 soaked the Gulf of Mexico with escaped oil and toxic chemicals. Even though I was on the Atlantic side I saw the effect as the skies darkened. The usually clear high blue skies turned to chronically smoggy and overcast. Day after day during the supposed rainy season, the clouds hung ominous and non-productive of rain. During this eco disaster I developed an array of unusual-for-me neurological symptoms.
I don’t know if my point of contact with the chemicals was by air or water, however each time I swam in the ocean or took a bath or shower, an eerie feeling took over my skin and my nerves would twitch for hours on end. I experimented and found that bathing in
purified water did not produce symptoms. For weeks my heart raced erratically
and I had problems sleeping. I developed estrogenic effects and headaches. Fatigue and mental fog eventually set in. My hair fell out in bunches. Walking in my neighborhood while the sprinklers or fountains were on, led to coughing. I was forced to retreat to the inside of my home whereas normally I love being outdoors.
Creepy Crawley Skin Feeling
The most pronounced symptom was a strange and uncomfortable excitation of the nerves on my skin, unlike anything I had ever experienced before. During the time when the BP oil well was gushing out of control, I left Florida two times, once for 5 day and
then 12 days, enough to learn that the severity of my symptoms gradually abated
when I left Florida, only to resume upon my return. I could only suppose I was reacting to the presence of gas and or Correxit, the dispersant that BP applied to contain the
oil spill for 80 plus days. Since it is very humid in Florida in June and July, I figured whatever was in the water must also be floating around in the air and vice versus. Eventually I left Florida for my health’s sake. I retreated to the forests in Maryland in order to reboot and rejuvenate my nervous system. My unfortunate experience however pointed my nose towards more research in the water safety issue.
Clean or Chemical Laden?
How safe is our water to drink? How about bathing & swimming? My son received his degree in environmental science and policy at William & Mary College. His interest
revolves around water issues and he had been telling me for several years that Florida has the most citations for toxic fish in the U.S. due to high pesticide use and what scientists and regulators now call “emerging contaminants”. That is a loose definition of chemicals that includes animal hormones, pharmaceutical and over the counter drugs, flame retardants, plasticizers and cosmetics. Over 80,000 chemicals are registered for use in the United States. The bench mark safety level of many of these is unknown and equipment to test for their presence undeveloped or expensive. Certainly many of these unregulated contaminants pass right through waste water treatment plants thus forcing our aquatic life to live in a toxic brew.
In a Texas Observer article I read –
There’s Something in the Water – 6/25/10 – (www.texasobserver.org) about research conducted by the Southern Nevada Water Authority. Categorized as the most comprehensive peer-reviewed study to date, they tested the tap water of 15 utilities that serve 28 million Americans. “Thirteen had measureable levels of contaminants, including the anti-convulsant phenytoin, the pesticide atrazine and the insecticide Deet.” Now the EPA is considering pharmaceuticals for regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act. Better late than never I suppose.
I read about mutant fish swimming in Pecan Creek in the Texas Observer article. Dr. Bryan Brooks and his colleagues from the University of North Texas found male fish turning into females. They collected a bunch of fish over time and found in their flesh
Prozac and Zoloft and their human metabolites. (anti-depressants that humans
consumed and excreted) This same chemical-infused water can end up in our tap
if recycled wastewater is used to offset diminishing freshwater supplies.
Biologists and toxicologists link exposure to “emerging contaminants” to a wide range of
developmental, behavioral and reproductive problems in aquatic species such as algae, mussels, minnows and game fish. Researchers at Clemson University exposed the
striped bass to relatively low levels of Prozac which alters serotonin levels. This shift tilted their feeding behavior off course and caused the fish to float with their fins poking out of the water. “Others floated vertically, tails down and mouths above the water level, like a kid dog-paddling in a pool.” The picture I see in my mind is weird and scary. I eat less seafood now.
You can learn more about how our seafood is being harvested and grown:
“Just as multinational corporations have forever changed the way food is grown on land to the detriment of public health, the environment, local communities and food quality
itself, they are poised to do the same at sea. The identical factory-farm model is being adopted for aquaculture: growing food as cheaply as possible using toxic chemicals and other harmful techniques, packaging it in enormous bulk, and shipping it to distant grocery stores and restaurants all around the world…..
The YouTube Video on
the same page brings your attention humorously to the first genetically modified fish that has been approved by the FDA – they call it the Frankenfish! If you are someone who
cares about your health, these directions affecting our food are something to be carefully considered and watched!
Back to My Childhood Playground – The Chesapeake Bay
Way back when in 1983, The Chesapeake Bay Agreement was supposed to improve and protect the water quality and living resources of the bay. The plan was to restore the bay by the year 2000. The goals and deadlines to clean up this precious resource went unmet,
mired in a net of government, agriculture and industry breakdowns. One article I read (Urbanite, July 2010, Now or Never) states “Today the bay’s situation is murkier than it was when the cleanup effort began. In 1985, about one-third of the bay met the Clean Water Act’s standard for clarity, in 2007 less than one-eight of the bay met the standard.
In the 1980’s, about 40 percent of the Bay’s deepest waters formed dead zones
so low in oxygen that aquatic creatures fled or died. Between 2006 and 2008,
more than 80 percent of the deep waters were summertime dead zones.” The EPA says the bay is impaired by pollutants from farm runoff – slurry of fertilizers, herbicides and animal waste that rainfall washes into the rivers and then dumps into the bay.
I personally have mixed feelings about swimming in natural water these days. I also feel real sad for the aquatic life. Then I reflect again upon my childhood neighborhood, how the men would bring bushels of really fresh crabs back from the bay, the women
cooking together in the kitchen and then the joy and feasting we all shared in
our backyards. What will be the fate of the Chesapeake Bay I wonder? There is the jelly fish issue….according to statistics, oyster and crab production is way down because species that do well in polluted waters like the jelly fish are taking the place of fish and shellfish that used to thrive there. Some rivers around the bay are nearly clogged with jelly fish at
certain times of the year, I read.
Yet there is hope for a cleaner tomorrow. The Urbanite article does express that under the Obama Administration progress is being made. Thanks to executive orders to pursue more aggressive actions and a new restoration strategy, the future is looking up. Time will tell since we all know that big business has a way of protecting its interests over that of eco safety. What we can do right now is start with this greater awareness. We can
also say a prayer for healing in our hearts. Somehow someway our precious fresh waters, the aquatic life breathing beneath the surface and the creatures of the earth must be valued more highly as truly precious and preserved for future generations.