WATER !!!

Unify Love Water

Water seems to have been the “material” focus of my week. Just yesterday, March 22nd, 2014 many people all over the planet celebrated World Water Day thanks to events organized by Unify.org. Many of my acquaintances are aware that, thanks to internet connectivity, the good will of average people can be harnessed – to raise awareness, and even to encourage active participation, in collective events. People Power. There is only ONE Body of Water which is expressed on this planet, as all rivers, streams, lakes, and oceans. All water is connected – there are no political or physical boundaries – keeping any drop of water from any other global water. All humans, regardless of race, religion or creed, were born from a womb of water, depend on water to live and have some connection with water everyday.

For 25 years, we have been among the FIRST YEAR teams to sign up for a Missouri Stream Team. We are happy to be sharing the joy of celebrating their 25th Anniversary. We mentored a group that wanted to start a stream team for a local river. We recycled as much of the trash that we took out of the river as possible – with these results – out of 1/2 ton of trash collected by 4 adults and 2 children in 7-1/2 hrs spent wading the Castor River near Marquand, with our recycling experience we were able to fully recycle over 92%.

25th MO Stream Team logo

Missouri Streams Teams are volunteers trained and involved in more than trash removal, they are trained to test scientific water quality measurements, to understand the characteristics of a watershed, to raise awareness in order to prevent storm drains from being used as disposal sites. And the FRESH water quality issues the MO Stream Teams are willing to tackle grow – year by year.

Water Quality Volunteer icon

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that between 0.1% and 0.4% of usable surface aquifers are contaminated by industrial impoundments and landfills. Dumps and landfills are a threat to water supplies when water percolates through waste, picking up a variety of substances such as metals, minerals, organic chemicals, bacteria, viruses, explosives, flammables, and other toxic materials. This contaminated water is called leachate and is produced when the waste becomes saturated with water. Wastes with high moisture content or which receive artificial irrigation, rainwater, surface or groundwater infiltration produce leachate and methane gas. It has been shown that once a dump is saturated, annual precipitation of 36 inches per year can percolate 1 million gallons of contaminated water per acre. If the leachate is not contained and migrates from a site the chemical and physical properties of the substances and the soil, as well as the hydrogeological conditions around the site, will determine the extent of contamination. If a leachate reaches ground or surface water it could contaminate water supply wells.

Water Pollution Graphic

Dumps and landfills are not entirely synonymous and a distinction should be made. A dump is defined as, “a site used to dispose of solid wastes without environmental controls”. The term ‘landfill’ is replacing ‘dump’ due to the modernization of our solid waste facilities. Landfill is defined as a “facility in which solid waste from municipal and/or industrial sources is disposed”. Sanitary landfills are those that “are operated in accordance with environmental protection standards”. This distinction is very important because it allows us to distinguish between two different eras and practices. Even so, some modernized landfills are poorly engineered or located in an environmentally unsound areas. The upgrade of waste disposal sites from dumps to environmentally sound, solid waste disposal systems was mandated by a set of hazardous waste amendments passed in 1986. Landfills are now regulated at one of three class levels, depending on the nature of solid or hazardous waste accepted.

Well designed landfills should not cause water quality problems because leachate problems are anticipated and controlled. The Stream Teams clean up illegal dumping but in our local area, the landfill has been closed by more stringent standards and all of our local waste is transferred to an “approved” landfill. Still, since we have to drive at least 20 mins to take landfill trash and recyclables to our local county seat – we do compost everything organic – and sort for recycling, everything that we can. We have to drive over an hour to drop off glass at a facility that will accept it. There are local people happy to take our metals to a salvaging facility, in exchange for whatever the going rate of compensation for it is.

In Missouri, we are blessed with an abundance of FRESH water. I grew up in El Paso, TX, the desert southwest alongside the Rio Grande River. Although many people joked about our river during my childhood public school days in the late 1960s, early 1970s; at least, there was always WATER flowing there through it. In my early twenties, I witnessed a young girl drown, in that river. So you may be able to imagine my personal sadness, to see the Rio Grande River completely DRY; when I took my children for a visit in Jan 2013, to the places around NM and TX that I was born and raised in, or had lived in the Mexican border culture of.

Dry Rio Grande riverbed January 2013

Dry Rio Grande riverbed
January 2013

Water is one of the MOST BASIC components of life on Earth. It is what makes our planet so truly beautiful when viewed from outer space. Many experts agree that the most serious issue facing humanity both NOW and into the future is the issue of drinkable, fresh water. The water we drink today has likely been around in one form or another since dinosaurs roamed the Earth, hundreds of millions of years ago. The Mountain Valley bottled spring water my family drinks (the water from our well is not really palatable but at least it is safe for drinking, cooking and bathing in) comes from deep in the Arkansas mountains and is estimated to be thousands of years old by the time it filters down to the source and is discharged again.

While the amount of freshwater on the planet has remained fairly constant over time — ingeniously and continually recycled by Nature’s wisdom, through the atmosphere and back into our drinking cups — the planetary population has exploded since the 1930s. This means that every year, the competition for a clean, abundant supply of water for drinking, cooking, bathing, and sustaining life grows more fierce. Water scarcity is already a reality for many people on our planet.

Glass of Fresh Water

You might be surprised to learn that fresh water makes up a very small fraction of all of the water on the planet. While it is true that nearly 70 percent of the world is covered by water, it can be startling to learn that only 2.5 percent of this water is fresh, drinkable water. The rest is salty in our oceans and seas. Water is actually even more scarce than I have shared thus far – only 1 percent of ALL the planetary fresh water resources are easily accessible, because a lot of that water is trapped in glaciers and snowfields. So that we are now down to the fact that only 0.007 percent of the planet’s water is actually available to living entities on this planet, to fuel and feed its 6.8 billion + people (and much more “life”, than people life, depends on water to nourish it).

Due to many diverse factors, some regions, like our state of Missouri, can seem so abundant in fresh water that it is hardly given a second thought. But many people on this planet, even here in the United States like the state of California, face critical issues of drought. Many others have unacceptably polluted waters. In much of the developing world, clean water is hard to come by for many diverse reasons.

We need to hold precious ALL of the water on our planet and individually there are many things that we can do – recycle, properly dispose of medications, fuels and oils, never litter, never dump, refuse to waste water where it is in short supply. Rethink our landscape choices to reduce the burden of watering and irrigation on fresh water resources. Yemm & Hart, by being active in water quality and recycling issues, is walking their talk every day. How about you ?

~ Information Resources

Drinking Water Contamination by Dumps and Landfills – http://extoxnet.orst.edu/faqs/safedrink/dumps.htm

Freshwater Crisis posted in the National Geographic – http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/freshwater/freshwater-crisis/

Unify – bringing people together, for the good of all – http://unify.org/

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Blog author ~ Deborah Hart Yemm is co-founder of
Yemm & Hart, a green materials producer

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