Water is our planet’s most precious resource. It cannot be replaced; only cleaned and recycled, and it is the basis for all life. But Earth’s water is in crisis now. All over the world, access to potable water is in jeopardy – even right here in the U.S. Here are the major drinking water dangers and what you can do about them:
The Problem: Water Quality in Your Own Home
As we recently reported, even here in American, drinking water can be tainted and toxic. The dangers lurking in your tap water can include arsenic, pesticides, lead, toxic levels of fluoride, harmful bacteria, pharmaceuticals and toxins released into water systems during fracking. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), “many of our water resources also lack basic protections, making them vulnerable to pollution”. The Clean Water Act, passed in 1972, protects our waterways, but changes in technology (such as fracking), weakened and crumbling water systems, and climate change have weakened its ability to protect our families from unsafe water. The Clean Water Act and other protections need to be updated so that the safety of drinking water in American needs to be a priority for future generations.
- Sign the NRDC’s petition to the EPA to restore the Clean Water Act to protect us.
- To protect your family, invest in a good quality water filtration system, such as Environmental Water Systems.
- Have your water tested for pollutants that are a common problem in your area.
The Problem: Water Contamination from Tank Farms
In the U.S., drinking water sources located near tank farms, areas where dangerous petroleum products are stored, can be in danger from toxic spills. Early this year, two such spills occurred, contaminating the drinking water of over 300,000 residents in West Virginia. States like West Virginia have little or no regulation governing these tanks,. The Chemical Safety and Drinking Water Protection Act of 2014 was introduced to Congress this year in response to that crisis. According to Huffington Post, the bill would require state inspections of storage facilities, require the development of emergency response plans and allow states to recoup costs from any emergencies so that they can properly respond to drinking water contamination. The bill has a second version, released at the end of July, and has not been voted on yet.
- Find out where your representative stands on The Chemical Safety and Drinking Water Protection Act of 2014 and let them know of your support for the bill.
The Problem: Fertilizer Runoff & Dead Zones
In 2008, Scientific American published an article about fertilizer runoff and the dead zones they can create. Fertilizers are heavy in nitrates and run off can eventually find its way into our water systems. These nitrates help algae to overgrow and deplete the oxygen in an area, creating “dead zones,” where no fish or sea life can survive. Those toxins pose a serious threat to drinking water as well. Just this week, the Environmental Working Group reported that the city of Toledo was put on notice to avoid using water sourced from Lake Erie, the main source of their drinking water, thanks to algae overgrowth. EWG reports that while the Clean Water Act helped the problem in the 70s, farmers have since worked around the issue, again dumping fertilizer runoff into streams and rivers and creating public health problems.
Wetland conservation, creating natural buffers between farmlands and waterways, and encouraging farmers to plant cover crops in between cash crop seasons are some ways to alleviate this issue. That requires town planners and farmers to take the initiative, or tougher laws may need to be enacted to protect public water from this dangerous runoff.
- Learn more about the problem at Toxic Algae News and check the map to see if your area is affected.
- Support local wetland conservation efforts in your area.
- Find out where your congressional leaders stand if this is an issue in your area.
The Problem: Fracking
Natural gas companies claim that fracking does not affect drinking water because it takes place much deeper than where drinking water is mined. The LA Times is reporting on a new study published this August by Stanford University scientist, showing that fracking occurs at shallower depths than believed – even through underground drinking water sources. While this is not against any regulations, companies have maintained deep fracking poses no threat to drinking water. We now have research that shows those claims to be incorrect.
- If fracking is coming to your area, take a lesson from communities across America fighting back. Check out Unfracktured Communities at Earth Justice to see how they won to get fracking out of their towns.
The Problem: Coal Residue
The Denver Post reported last March that Duke Energy “illegally pumped 61 million gallons of contaminated water from a coal ash pit into the Cape Fear River” in North Carolina back in February. The company was cited for 7 other environmental violations in the month surrounding that incident. The good news is that this is leading to legislation. The Coal-Ash bill will provide the state some regulation for oversight of the company and The Times News is reporting that the governor is likely to pass the bill, but will challenge some of its provisions. Meanwhile, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources is working to fine Duke Energy for groundwater pollution.
- Sign Earth Justice’s petition telling senators to oppose bad coal ash legislation and pass legislation providing stronger oversight to protect our water.
The Problem: Acid Rain
Acid rain is another issue we need to address. The EPA defines acid rain as acidic compounds that form when gaseous pollutants enter the atmosphere and rain down on us. Some are caused by natural events like volcanoes, but many, like sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide, are the result of electricity generation from burning fossil fuels. According to the EPA, it is a serious environmental issue affecting water across the US and Canada, damaging key waterways and ecosystems.
- Because acid rain is aggravated by fossil fuels, take steps necessary to conserve electricity and reduce your reliance on these fuels. Use Energy STAR appliances, unplug appliances not in use, carpool, lower your thermostat in the summer, carpool to work and conserve energy in your home.
- Investigate alternative energy sources to power your home. Certain states, like California and Pennsylvania, are seeing a growing trend in solar and other alternative energy sources.
- Check to see if your local electric company offers cleaner energy options.
The Problem: Oceans in Crisis
Over 70% of the planet’s surface is covered in oceans, which supply a great deal of the world’s food and medicine. According to Nature.org, it’s also vital in providing the oxygen we breathe and absorbing carbon dioxide emissions. But overfishing, trawling (that is, scraping the ocean bottoms for fish and other resources), global warming, and pollution from oil spills threaten the future of our oceans. In fact, in 2006, The Washington Post reported on a study Science that claimed the world’s fish supply could be depleted by 2048.
- Make better seafood choices. Check out National Geographic’s Seafood Decision Guide, which can help you select the safest, most sustainable choices for your family.
- Reducing your carbon footprint and energy consumption, as well as using less plastic items, also helps to save our oceans.
- Join an organization, like the Oceanic Society, dedicated to protecting and saving our oceans and sea life.
The Problem: Global Water Scarcity
The population of the world is greater than ever, and that means access and availability of clean drinking water has become a problem all over the world. Many people either lack access to water at all, or lack clean, potable water. According to the World Water Council:
- 1.1 billion people do not have clean drinking water
- 2.6 billion do not have adequate sanitation
- 3,900 children die every day from water borne diseases
Because water sources are becoming scarcer for the needs of our global population, families are struggling to have adequate water for food production. This shortage also decimates ecosystems and puts animals at risk, creating global problems that can affect us all.
You can help aide struggling towns across the world by donating to nonprofit organizations that help communities set up access to clean water. Many of them accept small donations ($10 or $20) as well as Paypal payments.
- The Water Project allows you to donate directly to helping a person or family in need.
- Hands 4 Others is an organization started by 3 teenagers to help aide a child, family or village.
- Blood:Water is a Christian organization dedicated to solving HIV/AIDS as well as the water crisis in Africa.
- Project Humanity provides a complete water solutions life cycle, including follow up, to world communities in need.
Resources On Our Water Crisis
From pollution to climate change, from scarcity to toxicity, the world’s water problems threaten the safety and vitality of our planet, including humans, animals, ecosystems, and the atmosphere. To learn more about what organizations are doing to help these issues, visit these resources that address our world’s water crisis:
- NDRC’s Water Page
- Water News, Resources & Info at the EPA
- The EPA’s Acid Rain Program
- Environmental Defense Fund’s Oceans Page
- National Geographic’s Protect the Ocean Page