Tag Archive | water



About Water

(Statistics vary; I did my best to use generally accepted numbers.)

First let’s rethink the value of water — the gift that dates to the stars and required billions of years to accumulate on our planet. All life (that we know about) started and survived because of it. Presumably, all future humans and species will depend on it. Water plays a key role in religious rituals such as baptisms. Water is essential for growing crops, providing beauty and renewal; it cools us …. Sister Water merits our respect and care!

About Plastic Water Bottles

In 1973,  a DuPont engineer patented polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles, the first to be used for bottling water. Its light weight and resistance to breaking seemed advantageous. But would people buy a free product?  Indeed they have, and while it’s sometimes necessary, the rest seems to be nothing but clever advertising and dependence on convenience. What follows applies to all plastic bottles, but focuses on water because there are easy alternatives.

Even Pope Francis has asked us to reduce use of both plastic and water. From Laudato Si’:

There is a nobility to care for creation through little daily actions, and it is wonderful how education can bring about real changes in lifestyle. Education in environmental responsibility can encourage ways of acting which directly and significantly affect the world around us, such as avoiding the use of plastic and paper, reducing water consumption  ….. (par. 211)

Here are eight reasons to rethink the use of plastic water bottles:

1. You testify that drinking water is a human right, not a for-profit commodity —

Water is absolutely essential in maintaining human life, and nothing can substitute for it. On 28 July 2010, the United Nations General Assembly explicitly recognized the human right to water and sanitation and acknowledged that clean drinking water and sanitation are essential to the realization of all human rights. ( Resolution 64/292)

2. You save the water used to make plastic bottles — 

For a true water footprint, consider all freshwater used in production: water used for drilling the petroleum for the plastic, water used in production, water used making packaging. It takes a minimum of 3 liters of water to produce 1 liter of bottled water, but amounts could be up to six or seven times greater when everything is considered.

3. You save the water put into the bottles — 

Activists throughout the world strongly object to having their water bottled and sold back to them. The damage to their loved locales cannot be repaired. Companies take scarce water and sacred water. It’s a matter of justice! There are 50 billion water bottles consumed every year, about 30 billion of them in the U.S. Do the math.

4. You save the energy used to make and transport plastic bottles — 

Producing, packaging and transporting a liter of bottled water requires between 1,100 and 2,000 times more energy on average than treating and delivering the same amount of tap water, according to the Pacific Institute. Scientists of the Pacific Institute estimate that just producing the plastic bottles for bottled-water consumption worldwide uses 50 million barrels of oil annually—enough to supply total U.S. oil demand for 2.5 days. We all know how fossil fuels damage our climate.

If you imagine that every bottle of water you drink is about three-quarters water and one-quarter oil, you’ll have a pretty accurate picture of how much energy it takes to put that bottle of water in your hand.

5. You prevent pollution from bottles which, even if recycled, take years to disintegrate — 

There is no “away” to throw things to. About 13 percent of empty bottles are recycled, where they are turned into products like fleece clothing, carpeting, decking, playground equipment and new containers and bottles. (Three cheers for the companies that do this!)

The bottles not properly recycled end in landfills or in the ocean. Those fragments absorb toxins that pollute our waterways, contaminate our soil, and sicken animals. Plastic trash also absorbs organic pollutants like BPA and PCBs. They may take centuries to decompose while sitting in landfills, amounting to endless billions of little environmentally poisonous time bombs.

Plastic bottles and plastic bags that break down into smaller fragments over time are the most prevalent form of pollution found on our beaches and in our oceans. Every square mile of the ocean has over 46,000 pieces of floating plastic in it! Millions of pieces of plastic debris float in five large subtropical gyres in the world’s oceans. But even more plastic might be on the oceans’ floor, doing damage we can’t yet study.

“Besides providing food and raw materials, the oceans provide various essential environmental benefits such as air purification, a significant role in the global carbon cycle, climate regulation, waste management, the maintenance of food chains and habitats that are critical to life on earth.” (from Cardinal Turkson’s recent statement to the United Nations)

6. You protect fish, birds, and humans from effects of plastic pollution —

Birds and their young die from eating and being strangled by plastic debris in oceans and on land strewn with plastic pollution. These ingested chemicals can then affect humans when we eat contaminated fish. Not only are we severely harming the land, air and water around us, but the rest of the world has to pay the price for our thoughtless over-consumption. Our children and generations to come will be dealing with the problems we caused.

7. You avoid the toxins that is in, and can leach from, plastic bottles — 

BBC reports that a 2018 study of several brands of plastic water bottles found that 93% of the water was contaminated with micro plastics. It’s not a question of best brands; the plastics are everywhere. Another study, by CertiChem, found that more than 95 percent of the 450 plastic items tested proved positive for estrogen after undergoing sunlight, dishwashing, and microwaving. Even BPA-free products tested positive for released chemicals having estrogenic activity.

8. You save lots of money!

And so

Where safe drinking water is not available due to scarcity or pollution, plastic water bottles are needed. Otherwise, to protect the future of our beloved (and only) planet, our water and food supply, our climate, our oceans — use a thermos with tap water. Many varieties of faucet filters and pitcher filters exist. Group events can supply pitchers of water and glasses — or drinking stations with compostable cups. Some cities, universities, stores (e.g., Selfridges) and tourist areas (e.g., the Grand Canyon) have banned the sale of bottled water; some supplied drinking stations. Alert those who are unaware. To quote Pope Francis again: There is a nobility to care for creation through little daily actions.

World Water

images-2World Water Day is March 22, but we can celebrate and care for water every day. Among the reasons I and so many others celebrate water and act to care for it are these:
– It is the origin of, and requirement for, life on Earth;
– It is a revelation of Earth’s awesomeness;
– It is an essential component of life (e.g., blood) and for enriching our lives;
– It helps us  “metaphor” divinity;
– It has a limited presence and a precarious future because of climate chaos, waste,  pollution, poor infrastructure, privatization, and poor distribution.
– In Laudato Si’, Pope Francis calls attention to the water pollution “produced in certain mining, farming and industrial activities … and [d]etergents and chemical products [that] pour into our rivers, lakes, and seas.” (par. 29)

Understandably, “. . . nor any drop to drink” [sic] is a mighty fearsome possibility!

Origins of Earth’s Water 

Learning about water is actually learning about our ancestry! (Berkowitz: “We’re really made up of trillions of bags of water — our cells.”)

images-4For decades I thought water on Earth was the result of steam turning to rain and deluging the land. Relatively recently, I learned that water on Earth most probably came from comets and asteroids that regularly strike Earth. I admit I didn’t think much about how water got into them.

Scientific breakthroughs

In 1927, scientists at Bell Labs in New Jersey accidentally tuned in to the cosmos and heard radio waves. This led to experiments in locating and identifying molecules that permeate the universe, the remains of supernovas that date ultimately to the origins of creation.

Finding that the cosmos contained molecules — two or more atoms bonded together to form a chemical compound — was a “quantum leap” in the non-scientific understanding of that word. Free-floating molecules form a unique fingerprint, making it possible for scientists to identify – and potentially find — each chemical. And in time, scientists did find them!

Discovery of Cosmic Water! 

Most people know that three atoms are required to form a water images-5molecule (H2O):
2 of hydrogen, the most common element from the Big Bang, plus 1 of oxygen, the most common element formed by stars.

In 1938, Charles Townes and his research group identified this three-partner dance in the cosmos — water!

Why care? Well, cosmic water is part of the story of who you and I are and the story of where we live.

images-7Our beautiful, blue, wet planet is floating in a Universe awash in water in some form, mostly very cold gas or ice. Ice is found around new stars and old ones; it’s near black holes as well as in the heart of galaxies; it forms around dust grains and it is frozen in ice balls.
Astronomers have detected water vapor whose light fingerprint had traveled from 12 billion years ago, and
the amount in the Universe is staggering! 

Stardust Connections

None of this water was “just here” in the cosmos; each single water molecule was formed from stardust elements!

How could we ever comprehend the creativity, the love, the source of this? Indeed, “The heavens are telling the glory of God!” (Ps. 19:1) images-8

Many Earthlings enjoy being in or near moving water: rivers, lakes, oceans, pools, even bath tubs. We instinctively feel a unity, a peace, a renewal.

Knowledge about cosmic water and our mutual beginnings from stardust can add to our feeling united to the entire Universe!

Call to Appreciation and Action

We humans have the awareness to appreciate water wherever it is, and to take action when it is threatened – as it now is!

Let’s deepen our appreciation of water everywhere on World Water Day March 22 — and beyond.

Let’s deepen it whenever we look out at the heavens.

And, for sure, let’s deepen it when we realize the number of our brothers and especially our sisters who lack adequate water and sanitation now.

Let’s take action to stop wasteful and polluting mining, agricultural, and industrial practices.

Let’s stop large scale commercial water bottling operations like Nestlé that pump and sell water even from sources in drought (e.g., California).

Let’s increase renewable energy, best farming practices, and funding to provide clean water and sanitary services, especially for the poor.




Have you noticed an increase in news and articles about water lately? Seems to me every day there is something new: mostly alarming and occasionally heartening. It’s a concern for everyone, but for those of us who find all of creation sacred and interconnected, it calls to our very sense of identity with the One. This could seriously disrupt — indeed, is disrupting — the wondrous and evolving cosmic story . . . . Ramifications for people and all life, present and future, motivate us to learn and act.

First some good news:


A few days ago I watched an interview with Matt Damon and Gary White, co-founders of Water.org. Motivated to reverse alarming water statistics, like the fact that a child dies about every 20 seconds for lack of clean water, they work with micro-finance groups to help local people construct simple and usable wells to access drinking water and also to provide sanitation. To date, Water.org and these loans (98% of which get repaid) have helped five million people get water! Damon received the World Economic Forum’s Crystal Award in Davos, January 21, 2014, for his efforts to improve the world’s water situation. Of course, this improvement does not cheer the “water mafia,” those presently making money from delivering water expensively, or the loan sharks. http://www.youtube.com/user/water

Water.org is just one of numerous groups dedicated to providing water and sanitation. Perhaps you belong to one or regularly receive email alerts from one or more. You might want to google “organizations concerned about water” to learn about many others.

But these organizations only exist because of the bad news. People in the United States often think of water problems as happening in other countries, but recent news accounts testify to water shortages and pollution even in the United States. Some examples, here and elsewhere:

 California drought

California is facing an historic drought expected to become the worst in its history. imagesThis will ruin the state’s agriculture and ranching; already ranchers are selling off their stocks. With 90% of the state gripped by drought (62% in “extreme” drought), 2014 could become a giant fire year. Federal officials from the Department of Agriculture have designated ten other US states as disaster areas due to drought.

 West Virginia pollution

images-2 Freedom Industry in West Virginia recently spilled dangerous coal-washing chemicals into the Elk River that put 300,000 West Virginians at risk and cut off their safe water supply. In violation of West Virginia law, Freedom Industries did not report the spill immediately. Schools in at least five counties were closed for days, and hospitals had to rely on bottled water donations.

 Pakistan groundwater

Bottled water is a huge threat to water in Pakistan (and other countries) because industries like Nestlé drain groundwater to make its bottled water. This destroys a country’s natural resource and forces people to purchase their own water back. Villages become uninhabitable. Nestlé’s current chairman was caught on tape saying that water is “not a right.” This violates law as well as common sense and morality.

According to figures compiled by the local environmental office, only 5 percent of the water remains.

Iran is facing a water shortage potentially so serious that officials are making contingency plans for rationing in the greater Tehran area, home to 22 million, and other major cities around the country. Iran’s largest lake has only 5% of its previous water. President Hassan Rouhani has identified water as a national security issue.

 Bolivian water wars

While searching for films about water in Spanish that I could recommend in my Lent


2014 resource: Tengo Sed: Un Viaje Cuaresmal de Desierto a Jardin, I watched a film about the Water Wars in Bolivia in 2000. Even the Rain juxtaposes treatment of indigenous peoples under Spanish conquerors with Bolivians fighting against privatization of their water in 2000. (I judged it too violent for many viewers, and some would object to the language. In addition, it stops with a happy ending that omits the water struggles that continue to this day.) Privatization and taking water for bottling causes untold hardships and wastes water and energy. Other films — e.g., Flow – for Love of Money, Tapped, and Blue Gold — address this issue.

 Lent resource: I Thirst100_0452_2

Anyone wishing to heighten his/her appreciation of the wonder of water, its sacredness, its precariousness globally, and how we can respond in faith might consider using, alone or in a group, the five-session Lent resource found at https://ecospiritualityresources.com/lent: I Thirst: A Lenten Journey from Desert to Garden. Grounded in the cosmic story, this free resource includes components that have made my Advent and Lent resources useful on four continents: reflection, input, sharing, action suggestions, group prayer, and socializing. creativity is encouraged.