Thursday, August 02, 2012

Water, Food and Climate Weirdness

The recent drought shows how our hottest summer on record impacts our food and water.  In the past week this lack of water grew by the size of the State of Alabama and still we have many weeks to go of potential excessive heat.  Not since the 1930’s has half of the continental United States suffered such a widespread and severe drought. The worst-hit area is the Great Plains. 

Food prices will also soar with the excessive heat and all-time high temperature records. More than half of all U.S. counties have been designated disaster zones and numerous cities have implemented water restrictions.  The dryness and heat keep baking things making it difficult for the land to cool down. US Department of Agriculture have made disaster zone designations for an additional 218 counties in 12 states including Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee and Wyoming. Almost three-quarters of the nation's cattle acreage are now in a drought-stricken area, as is about two-thirds of the country's hay acreage, the USDA cited. 

We are rapidly awakening to how water affects all aspects of our life.  How we use our water is not just about our future, but about our survival.  Beyond the billions who do not have clean water, an emerging consciousness recognizes the critical nature of this universal solvent.  Water is not just life; it connects and touches all living things. Less than one percent of the world’s water is presently consumable.  How we share this precious liquid directly relates to peace and prosperity on this earth.

Just a century ago it was common for many to have to carry water.  A woman in a developing country, on the average, must walk 6 kilometers each day to get freshwater.  Water enables life more than a simple flush of the toilet or drink of water.  So why must we better conserve water? Throughout the world both drought and lack of clean water is alarming.  While most Americans take clean water for granted there are many who lack this essential amenity. This is becoming increasingly true for rural Americans who rely heavily on wells, and springs.

 Polluted water is more of a risk to children and the elderly who are more vulnerable.  Each year hundreds of thousands of low-income American households do not have running water in their homes. Already one-third our world population or two billion people live without safe drinking water. With an additional people 2 billion projected to be borne by 2030 water scarcity is a fact of life.   Here and worldwide have experienced droughts and water shortages forcing us to reexamine water use.

An average person can survive months without food, but only days without water.   Increasingly, we are appreciating how we depend on H20.   Just think. Three fourths of our brain consists of this essential compound.  One way to understand the value of water is to observe it in our own bodies. One-half to two-thirds of the human body is water.  An average adult contains roughly 40 quarts of water and loses several quarts of water per day through normal elimination, sweating and breathing.  Water helps rid the body of wastes, metabolize stored fats, and maintain muscle tone.   We must begin to emulate how our bodies and the earth cycle water if we wish to maintain good health and prosperity.  Ironically less than 1% of the world’s water is available to meet our constantly growing human needs.  Ironically, many of us who drink bottled water do not fully realize where it comes from. 

Increased awareness to stimulate water conservation and quality is critical to preserving our quality of life.  At home, how we use this precious resource says it all. We drink less than 1% of our treated water while we use 99% in other ways.  Our public water systems produce more than 180 gallons per day per person, more than seven times the per capita average in the rest of the world and nearly triple Europe's level. By comparison, the World Health Organization says good health require a total daily supply of about 8 gallons of water per person. We flush an average of 27 gallons per person per day of drinking water down our toilets, 17 gallons per day through our laundry and 14 gallons per day in our showers.  Another tremendous use is of this valuable drinking source is watering our lawns. 

60-90% of the world’s consumable water goes to irrigation. By switching to a landscape dominated by bushes and shrubs, as opposed to grass, you can reduce lawn watering by 80 percent. Simply installing a more efficient shower-head and faucet aerators will save about 7800 gallons of water per year in an average household. 

Wasting drinking water magnifies water pollution.  Polluted runoff from agricultural operations, grazing, animal feeding operations, urbanization and other sources have been blamed for much of today’s water quality impairment. Such pollutants include siltation, nutrients, bacteria, oxygen-depleting substances, metals, pesticides, herbicides, toxic chemicals and other habitat altering materials.

As we deplete our water it becomes increasingly unlikely that we can stabilize water tables.  It takes hundreds and hundreds of years for water to cycle back into new drinking water.  Freshwater systems around the world are being degraded by urbanization, runoff, wetland loss, dams, diversions, and overuse, threatening our ability to support human, animal, and plant life.

Will this drought awaken Americans that the well may run dry if we do not engage in vital conservation and water improvement efforts? Food, water and excessive heat due to climate weirdness all prove that without water our very life will be in peril