In case you did not know it, March 22, 2018 was World Water Awareness Day. We all know that water is essential for life on earth. We are also very unaware that drinkable/potable water has become a limited resource. There are many reasons for this, most of them born out of neglect and a lack of appreciation for just how fragile our potable water supply really is.
In the past, when there were few people on this earth, the issue of locating good water was pretty much a non-issue — unless you lived in arid land. We easily found water in streams and rivers that originated from rain falling on higher elevations, which in turn originated from evaporation from oceans and transpiration from vegetation, including plants and forests. The water then flowed from the upper elevations to the oceans or it filtered through the ground slowly into underground aquifers.
As time has passed, human population increased. The water problems we started experiencing have not been that more water is being consumed per se, rather the problems began to stem from our populations polluting good water sources, cutting down vegetation and forests, and siphoning tremendous amounts of water from the underground aquifers. A large population in an urban area has its share of issues acquiring water for the populous but we know how to creatively solve those issues. If however, there is no water to be had because we ruined the source or the natural Terran water production systems, then it will not matter how ingenious we are — there simply will be no water available.
This has become the case. We have contaminated and destroyed our water sources. Thus, we are running out of potable water and we have run out of time.
The multiplicity and amount of human pollution is a big, big problem when it comes to water sources. Quite frankly, we have been careless and reckless. Businesses have been allowed to discharge deadly chemicals and radiation into our flowing sources. Poisons from industries of all kinds have leeched into our aquifers (US EPA, 2017c). Contamination fills our oceans — in particular plastic contamination (Kahn, 2018). Countless warnings not to eat any fish or animals from, or swim in many lakes across the United States (and elsewhere in the world), including the Great Lakes have been issued (Gandhi, et al., 2016). And industry is still being allowed to continue to pollute. Numerous restrictions and regulations on pollution or the industrial precursors to pollution have been loosened in the last year (Popovich, Albeck-Ripka, & Pierre-Louis, 2018).
Past farming practices and more recently corporate farming practices have loosened pollutants into our water sources (US EPA, 2017a; Food Empowerment Project. 2017). Past and present farming is also sucking dry any available water for irrigation from where it rests below the ground (California Water Science Center, 2017; Eller, 2014; Halverson, 2015). Enormous stretches of land are being cleared of forests so that farming can continue on fresh land — this eliminates vegetative transpiration from the hydrological cycle (University of Illinois, 2010).
Plastic in the water.
Rivers, lakes, streams, and the ocean are filling up with discarded plastic (Kahn, 2018). This may not seem like the biggest problem we are facing but that is an illusion. This is indeed a problem that lies in wait like an extremely venomous snake about to strike. Aside from animals (including fish) being trapped, strangled, and suffocated by plastic it holds an even more insidious, evil threat to humans.
Plastic not only exudes dangerous toxins (NIEHS, 2010), used in its creation, it also easily absorbs and accumulates major toxins. In particular, plastic sucks and builds up toxic levels of endocrine disruptors, DDT, modern pesticides, and other pollutants (US EPA, 2017b) together referred to as persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic (PBTs) chemicals or substances. The plastic then degrades into tiny particles and these particles are eaten by fish and other small creatures. The animals eating the particles absorb the toxins from the plastic and the animals subsequently build up toxic levels of the chemicals in their bodies. The smaller animals are eaten by bigger animals who continuously absorb the smaller animals’ toxins, then these animals are eaten by bigger animals, and so on until we as humans eat the larger contaminated animals.
Over time we build up enough of the toxins to start causing chaos to our systems. In particular, we (and other animals) are experiencing low sperm counts, infertility, less desire to procreate, breast growth in males, and many, many other complications (Patisaul & Adewale, 2009; Diamanti-Kandarakis, et al. , 2009).
We are absorbing toxic levels of contaminants and it will not stop until we die or until we find a way to break this toxic plastic chain of events and stop allowing toxic chemicals into the environment.
What Shall We Do?
Watch here for future articles on how together, we can not only stop these problems in their tracks but reverse them through sustainable methods, and create a world that has a continuous and plentiful supply of clean water for everyone on this earth.
California Water Science Center. (2017). Land Subsidence: Cause & Effect. U.S. Department of the Interior: U.S. Geological Survey. Retrieved on March 22, 2018 from https://ca.water.usgs.gov/land_subsidence/california-subsidence-cause-effect.html
Diamanti-Kandarakis E, Bourguignon J-P, Giudice LC, et al. (2009). Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals: An Endocrine Society Scientific Statement. Endocrine Reviews. 2009;30(4):293-342. doi:10.1210/er.2009-0002. Retrieved on March 22 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2726844/
Eller, D. (2014). Growing water use threatens to strain Jordan aquifer. Des Moines Register. Retrieved on March 22, 2018 from https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/money/agriculture/2014/11/15/water-use-jordan-aquifer-restrictions/19040407/
Food Empowerment Project. (2017). Factory Farm Pollution: Pollution (Water, Air, Chemicals). Retrieved on March 22, 2018 from http://www.foodispower.org/pollution-water-air-chemicals/
Gandhi, N., Drouillard, K.G., Arhonditsis, G.B., Gewurtz,S.B., and Bhavsar, S.P. (2016). Are Fish Consumption Advisories for the Great Lakes Adequately Protective from Chemical Mixture? National Institute of Environmental Health Services. Retrieved on March 22, 2018 from https://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/wp-content/uploads/advpub/2016/10/EHP104.acco.pdf
Halverson, N. (2015). California Is Literally Sinking Into the Ground. Mother Jones. Retrieved on March 22, 2018 from https://www.motherjones.com/environment/2015/06/california-sinking-drought-ground-water/
Kahn, A. (Mar 22, 2018). The Great Pacific Garbage Patch counts 1.8 trillion pieces of trash, mostly plastic. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved on March 22, 2018 from http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-garbage-patch-plastic-20180322-story.html
Kirkpatrick, N. (2015). Devastating photos of the world’s most endangered forests. The Washington Post. Retrieved on March 22, 2018 from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2015/09/04/more-trees-but-the-same-problems-these-forests-are-the-most-at-risk/?utm_term=.0593debb01c4
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. (2010). Endocrine Disruptors. Retrieved on March 22, 2018 from https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/materials/endocrine_disruptors_508.pdf
Patisaul, H.B. & Adewale, H.B. (2009). Long-Term Effects of Environmental Endocrine Disruptors on Reproductive Physiology and Behavior. US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. Retrieved on March 22, 2018 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2706654/
Popovich, N., Albeck-Ripka, L., & Pierre-Louis, K. (Jan 31, 2018). 67 Environmental Rules on the Way Out Under Trump. The New York Times. Retrieved on March 22, 2018 from https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/10/05/climate/trump-environment-rules-reversed.html
United States Environmental Protection Agency. (2017a). Nutrient Pollution. Retrieved on March 22, 2018 from https://www.epa.gov/nutrientpollution/sources-and-solutions-agriculture
United States Environmental Protection Agency. (2017b). Toxicological Threats of Plastic. Retrieved on March 22, 2018 from https://www.epa.gov/trash-free-waters/toxicological-threats-plastic
United States Environmental Protection Agency. (2017c). Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) National Analysis. Retrieved on March 22, 2018 from https://www.epa.gov/trinationalanalysis
University of Illinois. (2010). A Summary of the Hydrologic Cycle. Retrieved on March 22, from http://ww2010.atmos.uiuc.edu/(Gh)/guides/mtr/hyd/smry.rxml