My grandkids never have experienced swimming across lake and finding a cold spot in the warm water, a spring gushing water up from the bottom. I know exactly the location of that spring; as a youngster I swam the half-mile across the lake, over the very spot. There is something about feeling the life of the water, and knowing why that particular place is last to freeze in winter or where, since the lake never floods, the water goes next.
For the most part, we expend little consideration as we turn on the tap and slake our thirst from the water that comes forth. I bring this up because a few hours after we have imbibed, we ourselves become named tributaries as the water that flowed through us heads downstream to the next thirsty person, or steak, or ear of corn.
Unfortunately, some changes are about to be made. California, in the middle of what should be its rainy season, has declared a drought emergency – a situation bound to drive up the cost of strawberries, cabbage and wine, as one of the most productive agricultural regions of the nation prepares to shut down.
An ancient aquifer lies beneath eight Midwestern states. Farmers are pumping it out way faster than rain or snow can replace it, to irrigate fields where grow, among other things, pork and grains. Experts estimate the underground reservoir will dry up in as few as 20 years – a situation bound to affect the price of bacon and Cheerios.
Next door to the KeystoneState, a company poured 7,500 gallons of a chemical most of us can’t pronounce into the Elk River above Charleston, W.Va. The Elk flowed into the KanawhaRiver, which flowed into the Ohio River, and some 260 miles from the spill site, the City of Cincinnati was forced to close its intake valves to protect its citizens from the poisoned flow.
Back in Charleston, experts say the stuff has coated water pipes and a few days flushing will not get rid of it. No one is certain the long term health effects on children yet unborn, whose parents now are being told the water is safe to drink.
The tank in which the errant chemical had been stored was last inspected in 1991. While certain politicians blamed the EPA for not keeping the water safe, they busily worked to reduce that agency’s funding and quash enforcement of so-called “job-killing” regulations intended to ensure we would not become ill, or worse, from a drink of water.
Meanwhile, the agency which supplies the water flowing through my home is seeking approval to buy three million gallons-a-day of Susquehanna River water, and Gov. Tom Corbett, R-Marcellus, wants to lift a moratorium that has stopped natural gas drillers from pouring millions of gallons of chemicals into the natural water filters that are our state parks and forests.
Eventually, experts worry, those chemicals may find pathways to the Susquehanna, and thence to the kitchen faucets of millions of water drinkers.
At a water conservation presentation recently, a 7th Grade teacher proudly reported on her students eager receptivity to the problems associated with maintaining safe water supplies – and then said she is forbidden to discuss the political process which can only solve the problems if an educated electorate appreciates the need.
Somehow, we need to connect conservation-minded 13-year-olds who have never felt the flow of a cold spring with the looming liabilities to be faced by job seekers and tax and rate payers 18 and older.