A fluid necessary for the life of most animals and plants

[archaic] Once thought to be one of four elements composing the universe (Empedocles)

Binary compound that occurs at room temperature as a clear colourless odourless tasteless liquid; freezes into ice below 0 degrees centigrade and boils above 100 degrees centigrade; widely used as a solvent

Water, our most precious resource for sustaining life on the planet, not just for humans but for all the other inhabitants of this earth. Approximately seventy percent of the earth's surface is covered by oceans; the catch being that all land animals need fresh water to survive, not salt water, that is why a man cast adrift at sea would die of thirst! This seems illogical, doesn't it?

As land dwellers, we are reliant on the water from rivers, lakes and streams. Without this water we would die, as would the animals and the plants, although we could live without food for a couple of weeks quite comfortably.

     Like the earth, we are made up of approximately seventy percent water, and we were surrounded by water for nine months in our mother's belly, so it's no wonder we love to play in the ocean, dive into swimming pools and take long luxuriating baths or showers. Water is an intrinsic part of our life. It is involved at all stages of our life from conception through to death.

    Water is also one of the four elements that ancient scientists and philosophers thought constituted the physical universe, as well as fire, air and earth.

     H2O, as it is known scientifically, is a binary compound that occurs at room temperature as a clear colourless odourless tasteless liquid; freezes into ice below zero degrees centigrade and boils above one hundred degrees centigrade. A truly versatile little compound!

Imagine if you will, your typical day. Imagine the part that water has to play in it. Everything from the cup of tea or coffee you start the day with, to the water you shower in, to the water that helps the vegetables grow before you can boil or steam them, to make them easier to consume. Think about this quietly for a moment. The connection between life and water is undeniable and although it is necessary to sustain all life on earth, we don't seem to get it do we?

     Everything on this planet is in perfect balance (except us). In each area, there is enough water and food to sustain a specific amount of life, and no more. So what happens when you build a city? Well, you need massive amounts of water which must be fed from other areas to supply the needs of the people. Water that has been running in an area for thousands of years is taken and transported over many hundreds of miles so you can have a double espresso and a bottle of sparkling water “to go.”

     You are in your kitchen and you reach over and turn on the fountain of life, what goes through your mind? If you're like everyone else, probably nothing. Do you know what I see? I see life running through man-made pipes, pumped, filtered, and treated. I see water that is no longer pure, that no longer contains the energy it did at the source, that has been fundamentally altered by man. But then that's just my opinion!

     Back to the tap, and as you turn it on, the water runs out, but before you catch it, it runs away again. Water is so slippery you have to be really alert to catch it!

     “So what's all this got to do with me?” I hear you asking.

     Well, as usual, it's back to the whole waste thing again, I'm sorry to say. Not only have we diverted water away from its natural flow, we have dammed rivers, flooded valleys, and created huge reservoirs, which have forever changed the ecology of particular areas – all so we can live in industrialised cities. There is no connection to the stream where you gather water or the well you dig in your garden – the man-made tap sees to that.

     Where does it come from, this water stuff? Do you know where your water comes from? Most of you will no doubt quote your water company's name, but please stop, and think about this. If we are in agreement that water is one element that gives life, surely we should know where it comes from!

From an ice cube in your drink to a steam bath

From steam engine to the ice skating rink

From the polar ice caps to the children playing in the snow

Water holds life together in all of its wondrous forms

As I have explained in other topics, I am currently writing at a small “spiritual” community on an island in scotland. As they have no mains water, this morning I took a walk to find out how we get it. I traced it back from the solar heated hot water tanks to the main tank which has a ultraviolet light filter to remove any harmful bacteria (sorry for killing you, bacteria), the pipe runs up the hill to a primary holding tank, which then has three plastic pipes inserted. I traced these 100 metres to a small hole dug into the hillside. Inside was water flowing down from the hill and going out again through a perforated plastic pipe. Is that it? Where is all the fancy machinery?

     I made enquiries to the maintenance man, and was assured that the water came from natural springs, and that the system was simple. Water from a spring one hundred metres away through to my tap. Perfect. I could see the whole process, from start to finish!

     How many of us have ever enquired to our many privately owned water companies how the whole process works for millions of people? I think it would be very different to the system we have here which provides uninterrupted water supplies for 60 people, most of the time – except in the summer when the springs have been known to almost dry up! What a sight that must be, to see the one thing that keeps you alive dry up.

     Seeing your water supply dry up must be like looking death in the face. Millions of people have this problem in the driest countries on earth, but once again there are too many people competing for small supplies of water.

     I often wonder how the tribes people of africa have managed to survive all these years, when every day I see pictures of people dying of thirst and walking up to twenty miles just to fetch water. How did they survive?

     For a start there were not as many of them. Nature provided for a specific number of people and when the people started to gather in one place instead of many areas (for work), nature's supply ran out. Of course if you live “in the west” you won't have to look death in the face when the water runs out. They'll just pump it in from somewhere else! After all, you pay for your water, who's to tell you to use less?

     “Water is a human eight,” you cry, “I am entitled to water. I don't care where you get it from, just get it!”

Government advertising campaigns in countries such as australia, are urging people not to wash their cars, not to water their lawns, and to turn off the tap when brushing their teeth, but just down the road, people are sitting in retail precincts and restaurants where all the vegetables are washed two to three times, and water is being used frivolously washing plates, and cups and serving cappuccinos. When the customers have finished eating, they all go to the toilets and flush, flush, flush, and wash their hands in plentiful supply. Somehow or other, this “SAVE WATER OR WE ALL DIE” campaign, loses its authenticity.

     Consumers are told to save water at home, but businesses seem to be exempt. Surely we shouldn't be so cynical as to think that this has to do with money? That if people stopped using retail establishments as much during water shortages, it may create an economic crisis, and people would start losing their jobs, which would have a knock on effect, which meant the unemployed would be a burden on society, and the government would lose its tax dollars! Surely not?

     One thing you may or may not be aware of is that business is by far the biggest consumer of water. Investigate it for yourselves. The laptop I am writing this book on required huge amounts of water in its manufacture! Am I crazy? As you will discover, the electronics industry is the one of single largest consumers of water! Making these high-tech semiconductors requires water. Lots of it. I wonder if you could guess what else requires water in its manufacture?

     So before we all start sharing bath water between a family of four, maybe we should look at our choices outside the home. The place where no one can monitor our use of water resources. Maybe the reason we all comply at home is fear. Fear that we will be found out. And maybe even at home we don't really care, water being a “human right,” and all.

I did consider some time ago that water is a human right and that it should be provided for all, at no cost, but then I remembered we were talking about human beings here, the most intelligent, but most wasteful species on the planet, who at every opportunity live for “me.” If people can get away with something they do. That is why in the topic on law I concluded that the human race wasn't ready to get rid of law. If there was free water, they wouldn't use it carefully and thoughtfully, they would keep using it until it ran out, and then complain that it had run out and someone should be doing something about it!

     So, charging people for what they use seems the only way at the moment. We are not ready to be given unlimited access to something so precious. Isn't that a terrible shame? It fills me with sadness to think we don't care about water. It is vital to life, so perhaps we should start preserving it. We must see it not as a commodity to be traded, or something to be wasted, but must start to see every drop as being a part of us, and we of it. We are linked, bonded by the molecules in it. It is our life. Let’s not throw away our life.

     Treat water in the same way you treat your family – with tenderness and care. Save it. Don't let rainwater run off your roof and into the gutter – use it to water your vegetable garden. Recycle it. You can use it again! There are systems that use old bath water to flush the toilets etc. Amazing, isn't it?

     Next time you run your tap, try to imagine the source, and try to reconnect with it. You may not live as close to the source as I do, but try to ask yourself why. Why do you not live close to the source? Ponder that question for a while. You may be surprised at the answer. On the other hand you may not!

alan mac

Spring 2006