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An Environmental Plan A – Caring for God’s Creation. Fresh Water.

8 October 2017

We all know that fresh water is absolutely vital for the sustaining of life, people can survive without food for several weeks, but only as long as they have water to drink. Our Earth contains 1.4 billion cubic kilometres of water; that’s all there has ever been and all there ever will be, as far as we know. The problem is that when I was born the world’s population was well under 2.5 billion people, whereas today it stands at nearly 7.5 billion, and they all need access to clean water. A volume of 1.4 billion cubic kilometres might sound a lot but 97% of it is saline, as it fills our oceans and seas. Of the remaining 3%, the fresh water, over half is locked up in the ice caps and is not available to drink. The remainder, just over 1 % is potable, i.e. drinkable water. A further complication is that certain locations on Earth have a super-abundance of water, e.g. Iceland, whereas others are arid and almost water-free, and the big centres of population do not coincide with the areas of water abundance.

The amazing thing is that each time we have a drink of pure, clean water, the water in our glass has been drunk by millions of animals and plants before us. Rainwater is pure water, and the water that flows into the sea is salt-bearing and contaminated. However, sunshine evaporates pure water from the seas and it passes as vapour into the atmosphere, where it later precipitates as rain and snow. We thus enjoy the benefits of a natural de-salination and purification system, which is solar powered, and free of charge. This is how the water of life is provided for us every day, and I find that awe-inspiring.

In the UK we are fortunate, enjoying a temperate climate with only a very occasional drought. The last such year was 1995, when the Eccup Reservoir which serves North Leeds, began to run dangerously low. Like the wider world, water abundance in the UK is not evenly distributed, areas of abundance do not coincide with the areas with high demand. In the Summer and early Autumn of 1995, Yorkshire Water resorted to using a fleet of large tanker lorries to bring water to top up the Eccup Reservoir, and some of you may remember them thundering North along the Harrogate Road to deliver the water. Since then the water companies have laid a ‘national grid’ of water pipelines to ensure better supplies in the event of a future drought.

What can we do?

We began to be separately charged for our water about 40 years ago and the water companies have since invested billions of pounds in up-rating supplies. We can all help by not wasting water and being economical in its use.

  • Do not leave taps running,
  • Report any water leaks promptly,
  • When boiling water for drinks, just boil the volume that you need,
  • Harvest rain-water for watering gardens,
  • Take a shower instead of a bath.

While we enjoy good water supplies in the UK, our population is growing quickly and we do not have a large margin of safety. Remember, a gallon of water is infinitely more valuable than a gallon of petrol, and even much more that a gallon of diesel fuel.

John Sturges         j.sturges@leedsbeckett.ac.uk;

Julia Hyliger          Julia.hyliger@hotmail.com;

September 2017  

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