Monday, July 28, 2008

Compromising the Elixer of Life

Water is really the life-giving elixir. Water is not only what you drink, it is what the plants and animals drink. Freshwater systems occupy only 0.8 percent of Earth's surface.

The Worldwatch Institute reports that our renewable water supply amounts to approx 0.3 percent of the world's total freshwater, which is less that is presently being used. Sandra Postel, a Senior Fellow of The Worldwatch Institute, and expert in global water problems, states that "Most irrigation-based civilizations fail." Wow, that is a stark and scary statement. Her compelling facts back up her statement, leaving me with a sense of urgency about figuring out how can we avoid this path of failure. How can we?

The Why Files water map and linked articles provide detailed information from The World Health Organization -- WHO. "Of a population of roughly 6.1 billion, more than 1 billion lack access to potable water. The World Health Organization says that at any time, up to half of humanity has one of the six main diseases -- diarrhea, schistosomiasis, or trachoma, or infestation with ascaris, guinea worm, or hookworm -- associated with poor drinking water and inadequate sanitation."

Since most of us eat more plants than animals, and plants do not effectively process or filter the water the take up (up-take), the quality of the water that they are water with is very important. However, what about polluted water? What about our "water footprint?"

Discover Magazine has been doing a series of articles on water. Better Planet: Everything You Know About Water Conservation Is Wrong Forget short showers. Worry about the 6,340 gallons of "virtual water" in your leather bag. by Thomas M. Kostigen, published online May 28, 2008. I will leave you with two very shocking statements as teasers to encourage you to pop over there and read the whole article.
"...if each of us avoided wasting just one cupful of coffee a day, we could save enough water over the course of a year to provide two gallons to every one of the more than 1.1 billion people who don’t have access to freshwater at all.

That is a stark statistic, when as many as 5 million people die unnecessarily each year because of lack of water and water-related illnesses; one-third are under age 5."

Farther along in the article he writes: "Right now we lose 30 to 50 percent of the food we grow—and all the virtual water in it—by the time it is ready for consumption, says Daniel Zimmer, executive director of the World Water Council (WWC) in Marseille, France."

Discover Magazine has earned worldwide respect among the learned community they report on, and provides a wealth of information.

The Dallas-Fort Worth Star Telegram online news has a section devoted to clean water issues called Plant DFW: Drinking Water from a series of articles that they did in May 2008. The issues they address are underground chemical plumes affecting their water system (what do we have here on the Kitsap Peninsula?), Airline water, and more. They provide plenty of links, too. Discover Magazine is linked there as is National Geographic's The Green Guide.

The Associated Press (AP) investigated our water supplies in twenty-four major cities at the end of last year. They found what many of us have known for a while: the drugs that we take pass through our digestive systems and into the sewage stream. The extent of this pollution of our water was profiled in article written by Jeff Donn, Martha Mendoza and Justin Pritchard, published by the AP, March 10, 2008. Sex Hormones, Mood Stabilizers Found In Drinking Water Of 41 M Americans

Here is a taste of a this long and thoughtful piece.
“People take pills. Their bodies absorb some of the medication, but the rest of it passes through and is flushed down the toilet. The waste water is treated before it is discharged into reservoirs, rivers or lakes. Then, some of the water is cleansed again at drinking water treatment plants and piped to consumers. But most treatments do not remove all drug residue.

Sewage treatment plants are not set up to handle these chemicals, so now our birth control pills, antibiotics, pain relievers are in our drinking water. I first became aware of this problem when I read an article several years ago about the feminising of fish, amphibians, and mollusks species that can change gender. This is a serious problem for our food supply.

This is a really important issue for farming. How can our food supply be pure if our water is polluted? The title of the story is a link to the AP site. I have quoted few paragraphs so that you can see why this investigation is important.

A vast array of pharmaceuticals -- including antibiotics, anti-convulsants, mood stabilizers and sex hormones -- have been found in the drinking water supplies of at least 41 million Americans, an Associated Press investigation shows.

To be sure, the concentrations of these pharmaceuticals are tiny, measured in quantities of parts per billion or trillion, far below the levels of a medical dose.
Also, utilities insist their water is safe.

But the presence of so many prescription drugs _ and over-the-counter medicines like acetaminophen and ibuprofen _ in so much of our drinking water is heightening worries among scientists of long-term consequences to human health.

I encourage you to read the entire story. I have not found a follow up to this story. If you know of additional or follow up information, please share the links to it.

If, like me, you don't know about these drugs, and their effects on the human being, read this chapter from a text book for psychiatrists. Mood Stableizers are discussed in this online book from the Australia New Zealand Association of Psychiatrists in Training.
This is described as: Chapter 18: Mood stabilizers Saturday, 27 August 2005, Last modified: April 28, 2006, This chapter is not exciting. It provides more detail than medical students need. There is little controversy attached to mood stabilizers.

Why is this important and the blue planet: the water planet? What are we to do when freshwater systems occupy only 0.8 percent of Earth's surface and less that 3% of all the earth's water is potable, fresh water: that means able to be used by people, plants or animals. Without water, there is no life.

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