Essay: Fresh Water

This semester I took an essay class. The instructor provided us with topics and sources to be sited.  I decided to write about the global water crisis.  This essay normally would be considered too long for a blog post, but the issue has my attention.  Doing research on a topic, exploring it, and developing your own opinion is what writing is all about.  Writing teaches you how to think and converse.  -Shannon Laws

Watching Our Water Disappear: An Overview of the Current Fresh Water Crisis

The surface of our planet is 71 percent water. Headlines in the news often shout about the ever growing water shortage. A citizen naturally may wonder, “How can there be a water shortage when I see water everywhere?” Natural resource experts claim that the problem is not with the volume of water, but with the cleanliness of fresh water. In the last decade more data and research has been collected regarding our planets fresh water resource. Four authors attempt to explain why and how this world-wide contamination happened over the years. The information in the articles help to explain to everyday water users not only how our clean water crises occurred, but what our fresh water situation will look like in the decades to come if nothing is done about it. The authors attempt to sound a worldwide alarm alerting citizens that our primary life giving resource may simply disappear unless extreme action is taken on a global scale. giphy

Cynthia Barnett’s article “Wet Dreams: Water Consumption in America”, is a great place to start this journey of understanding the crisis because of the intimate connection she makes with everyday Americans. She states, “During American’s retreat to the suburbs in the 1950’s large home lots and disposable incomes allowed for a new maker of success: the backyard swimming pool” (1). This is an excellent illustration of first world citizen mentality regarding water. Swimming in a resource that is not readily available to many third world countries can be viewed as gluttonous. Almost every American has access to fresh water in their homes and at work; we drive by fountains, rivers and lakes, and most of the time we are within a mile of the ability to purchase bottled water if we wanted to. Barnett says, “America guzzles about 410 billion gallons of water per day” (3). Whenever I turn a faucet on, water comes out.
Lake Whatcom Photo credit:

Living in the rainy northwest, it is difficult for me to believe that some towns, even in America, have inadequate clean water access. For years Washington State has sold its excess water to California. Washington is littered with hundreds of fresh water lakes, rivers, and streams. The snow build-up in our Cascade Mountain range fills the rivers with plenty of fresh water every spring as the snow melts. State dams, previous generations built, help to keep our power bills low. Washington is water rich. I grew up playing in those rivers; running in the sprinklers, having water balloon fights−where is the problem?

water graph
The problem is that even though the Earth’s surface is 71 percent water, only 2.5 percent of it is fresh water. Brian D. Hoyle’s article in Environmental Science: In Context, “Groundwater Quality.”, takes Barnett’s point of view a step farther. Hoyle states, “Because pollutants can remain in the water for a long time, pollution of groundwater represents an even more serious threat to human health” (402). The availability of fresh, clean ground water is decreasing due to pollutants. Humans, farmers and corporations are contaminating our ground water, consumption is depleting it, and it’s all happening faster than the planets natural cleansing cycle can clean it. The water is becoming contaminated by mismanagement, and neglect. Hoyle also explains that too many minerals can also contaminate fresh water. Talking about the infiltration of saltwater, especially in coastal towns, Hoyle states, “As freshwater is pumped out from the subsurface, saltwater that has infiltrated into coastal sediment can be drawn farther inland” (402). Fresh water is essential to human health. We need fresh water, not saltwater, to grow our crops, to cook our food, and to drink.

Industrial waste pours into a fresh water lake

Industrial trash, various chemicals, and human waste are to blame for destroying a fresh water aquifer; however, what creates a water “crisis” varies greatly. In some cases the water supply is the issue, while in other developing countries, pipe infrastructure and water treatment quality can constitute a crisis. In her essay, “Billions of People Will Run Out of Fresh Water by 2050” Gayle Ehrenman, writes “…the World Water Report predicts that by the middle of this century, at worst, 7 billion people in 60 countries will be short of water; at best, 2 billion people in 48 countries will suffer shortages” (2). I saw poor city planning jeopardize the fresh water supply for hundreds of southwest suburbs. When the southwest was in a nine year drought, the city continued to build homes despite the heavy pull for water from local agriculture, industry, mining and cattle ranches. The city did not heed the warnings of biologist like Ehrenman.
houses_617x347From 2002 to 2008 I lived in the high desert city of Tucson, Arizona. I saw the city go from water shortage to crisis first hand. When the national “housing boom” was in full swing, it seemed as if new neighborhoods were going up overnight. It was a shock to learn that many new neighborhoods had no water. The city was trucking water into the new subdivisions. The local news reported the city issued construction permits knowing there was no water for the homes, and yet the homes were built and people moved in. By mid-2008 the bubble burst, and many homes foreclosed and neighborhoods turned into ghost towns. There was insufficient water to support the dense population. It was unbelievable to watch.

Ehrenman shares many ideas to help solve our fresh water dilemma. Some countries are considering the expensive process of desalination, others are actively recycling and reusing waste water, and some are specifically looking to improve the efficiency of farming irrigation. She states, “Averting a water crisis is a massive undertaking that will require a combination [of] conservation, new technology, and cooperation among competing interests” (4).
The first three articles touch on the crisis and explain the cause, effect and provide predictions of the worldwide fresh water shortage. However, author Mingquian Li looks behind the veil at the business side of water management and reveals a juggernaut of greed designed to control an entire nation’s water supply. Her discovery educated and enraged me instantaneously.
The privatization of the Earth’s fresh water supply complicates the goal of clean water for all. Mingqian Li tackles this issue in her paper, “Walking on the Tightrope―Can Water TNC Tackle Drinking Water Crisis in Developing Countries”. In Li’s article she states transnational corporations, or TNCs, occupy over 80 percent of the market for water and sewerage services. Our politicians are unwilling to take money out of these corporation’s pockets the same corporations that may fund many political campaigns.

Water For the People Network
Zamboangenos protest privatization of Water District. Image Source: Water For the People Network

Producing a quality product does not seem to be a priority for these powerful corporations. Under current legal and economic conditions monopolizing a nations water supply allows TNC’s to rake in high profits regardless of the quality produced because everyone needs water, even dirty water. In some countries such as Mexico and Brazil, with TNC run water supply of poor to unusable standards, Coca-Cola offers its bottled water products at two to three times the global price per unit. This is an unfair business practice and an outrageous maneuver against humanity.  Water is essential to life, it is not a product humans can stop using for a month to save money, such as expensive coffee drinks. Li shares, “Many health problems can be traced back to inadequate and polluted water resource. An estimated 3.4 million died because of either direct consumption of contaminated water or diseases infected by organisms living in polluted water” (122). Reform of existing management systems would work to bring down those numbers.

Whether a TNC or a government runs the water system for a city or country, accountability and capping profits at a reasonable level are elementary steps towards a solution. Removing the profitability of water management may force governments and corporations to focus on the issue at hand: clean fresh water is essential for everyone. In the current political environment the citizen often feels like a “David” fighting “Goliath”. The basic human right to clean, fresh water at an affordable price seems possible, if our current leaders will hear the voice of their people and if the people demand better.

Work Cited

Barnett, Cynthia. “Wet Dreams: Water Consumption in America.” UTNE Reader Magazine.
N.p., Apr. 2012. Web.

Ehrenman, Gayle. “Billions of People Will Run Out of Fresh Water by 2050.” Mechanical
Engineering, 2007. Web.

Hoyle, Brain D. “Groundwater Quality.” Editorial. Environmental Science: In Context 2008:
401-03. Print.

Li, Mingqian. “Walking on the Tightrope-Can Water TNC Tackle Drinking Water Crisis in
Developing Countries.” Canadian Center of Science and Education, May 2011. Web.


Poetry: The Runaway

The Runaway
Water drips in a full bucket placed beneath a gutter leak
It sits aside the bottom step to prevent a puddle from forming
Low moonlight barely fills the rim as it rides ripples shaped by bent 
wood, pushed by the midnight breeze that whistles alone
Soft steps walk down finding each board in the dark
Avoiding the familiar places where warped wood and nail heads complain
Out to the yard towards the fence that never was built, but where one 
should be, boundaries imagined are strong as wrought iron
Sneak out in the night’s middle, knowing others are dreaming of Tuesday 
while you packed, no note left on a counter, thoughts too fragile to put 
on paper If they don’t know where you are heading,
then they don’t need to know why you left
Why’s are for those worthy of knowing
Very few are worthy
You can leave
Cut all ties,
scissors snap 
a ribbon
as hand

Song: Suzanne

Songs are poems.  Poems are songs. 
This one to me is sung best by Nina Simone.

Hylas and the Nymphs
John William Waterhouse, 1896

Suzanne takes you down to her place near the river
You can hear the boats go by
You can spend the night beside her
And you know that she’s half crazy
But that’s why you want to be there
And she feeds you tea and oranges
That come all the way from China
And just when you mean to tell her
That you have no love to give her
Then she gets you on her wavelength
And she lets the river answer
That you’ve always been her lover

And you want to travel with her
And you want to travel blind
And you know that she will trust you
For you’ve touched her perfect body with your mind.

And Jesus was a sailor
When he walked upon the water
And he spent a long time watching
From his lonely wooden tower
And when he knew for certain
Only drowning men could see him
He said “All men will be sailors then
Until the sea shall free them”
But he himself was broken
Long before the sky would open
Forsaken, almost human
He sank beneath your wisdom like a stone

And you want to travel with him
And you want to travel blind
And you think maybe you’ll trust him
For he’s touched your perfect body with his mind.

Water Nymph by Margrete Heising, 1982

Now Suzanne takes your hand
And she leads you to the river
She is wearing rags and feathers
From Salvation Army counters
And the sun pours down like honey
On our lady of the harbour
And she shows you where to look
Among the garbage and the flowers
There are heroes in the seaweed
There are children in the morning
They are leaning out for love
And they will lean that way forever
While Suzanne holds the mirror

And you want to travel with her
And you want to travel blind
And you know that you can trust her
For she’s touched your perfect body with her mind

copyright Leonard Cohen.

Fresh Air

Yesterday afternoon, desperate for some fresh air, I slipped on my shoes and traveled half a mile to Whatcom Creek.  Earlier that morning I put some olive oil in my hair for a home moisturizing treatment so I thought I’d find a good place to sit by the creek and sun my hair for a bit, let that oil heat up naturally.  Just needed fresh air and sun- that was what I thought I needed, but I needed more.

It’s been six months since I was laid off from KVOS Television here in Bellingham.  I am a driven person but lately it feels like my wheels are spinning.  I continue to apply for jobs, keeping an ear to the ground for new opportunity.  I am networking and moving going… going… going.

Walking and thinking, thinking and walking.  As I think on new strategies for success I come around to the trail head.  WOW!  The bushes along side the path here have poofed out with summer leaves and new branches.  The new bark that was laid down in April is now hidden beneath all the growth. 

Nature stops me and says, take a second and just look.  Just breath.  I do just that, for a while anyways.

Farther down the trail a jogger zipps by that sparks more internal conversation this time about my summer fitness goals.  “Just need to loose 5lbs a week doing… bla…bla…”  about that time I cross the bridge.  The creeks water is surprisingly clear I can see the stones lined up on the bottom.  Sunshine hits the creek at the perfect angle casting shadows on the moving reeds that grow beneath the water line, giving away the creeks depth.

*deep breath*
How beautiful
Middle Falls, Whatcom Creek, Bellingham

I stop to poke my head through the rails to watch the creek move.  Just in the corner of my eye I see a small spider as it swings from my glasses like Tarzan.  Picking up it’s leader line, I lay it across a metal beam for safe keeping.  Watching the diligent spider sets my mind on a tangent about how behind I am on my goal for purchasing a home.  “How the hell am I going to do that?”

thinking… thinking… thinking… 

Back to my walk.  I notice a small trail to the right, a branch into the woods off the main trail where two fallen trees have created a makeshift bridge to the other side.  I study their positions and find a person could sit nicely on one and dingle their toes in the cold water.  Before I know what I am down there doing just that.  Reliving good childhood memories I start to throw items within reach into the creek.  Sticks tossed in float on top and float away with a bumpy “whoosh” downstream.

 “There is a family on the sand bank around the bend a bit; 
I wonder if they will notice my little boats.” I say to myself  

Then slowly… quietly… like a whisper it comes to me.  The Voice.  The voice I have traveled to hear.  The still small voice that my soul yearns to be enveloped in, mailed away and read by my Beloved.  It calls and holds.  It hugs and kisses my mind and thoughts.  Inspired to write I dip the last stick from my boat pile into the water like pen to ink and try to write my name on the bark-barren dry gray log.   With each stroke the sun grabs the letter, throws it into the air; birds rise up on the currents that circulate above my head.

My epiphany:  there is no black or white in nature.  Those are man made colors.  In paint black is the combination of all colors, white is the absence.  In television black is the absence of a signal and white too much signal, over saturation. 

There is no black or white in nature.  There is light, darkness and shade.  
There is color, dimension, and movement I can hang my toes in.

My interpretation:  we put ourselves on the treadmill.  I put myself on the treadmill forgetting to breath.  Exhausting myself, trying to justify my existence, when all I need to do is be.