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Be Concerned, Be Very Concerned
In 1950, the United States took 12 trillion gallons of water from the ground; by 1980 this figure had more than doubled and continues to rise at an alarming rate. The Ogallala Aquifer is depleting at a rate of 12 billion cubic meters (420 billion feet or 9,729,000 acre feet) per year, a total depletion to date of a volume equal to the annual flow of 18 Colorado rivers (4,000 cubic feet per second).
Time Magazine reported, “The Ogallala Aquifer is drying up! Some estimates say it will dry up in just 25 years. Many farmers in the high plains of Texas, who are particularly dependent on the underground spring, are now turning away from irrigated agriculture. The aquifer stretches from South Dakota through Nebraska, where two-thirds of its water is found, to Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Texas. For the past three decades, farmers have pumped water from the Ogallala as if it were inexhaustible. The annual overdraft of the amount of unreplenished water is almost equal to the flow of the Colorado River. A report by engineering firm Camp, Dresser and McKee estimates that by the year 2020, some 5.1 million acres of irrigated land will dry up.
Today, the American Southwest is the most irrigated region in the world, transforming a desert into a veritable Garden of Eden. However, this heavy irrigation can destroy the land through salt infiltration. The 1,400 mile Colorado River is the lifeblood of 11 million people from Denver to San Diego. In fact, 1.5 million acres of prime agricultural land are now irrigated. This magnificent river is slowly being poisoned by salt loading from saline runoff from western soils and salt concentration, caused by evaporation and increased use of the river in the seven states it serves. Salt levels have reached over 800 milligrams per liter and are expected to reach 1,200 m/l in the near future. The EPA maximum safe level for drinking water is 500 parts per million, more than 500 ppm is considered unsafe to drink. (That translates to one teaspoon of salts per gallon of water.) In addition to the depletion of groundwater sources, there is less precipitation on land and more in the ocean, due to shifting air currents and changing weather conditions globally.
WHAT COULD BE WORSE?
As if a dwindling water supply weren’t enough, we are now rapidly destroying what little water we have left with hazardous waste. Toxic chemicals at thousands of hazardous waste sites across the country continue to seep underground, contaminating land and groundwater and poisoning the air. The US General Accounting Office says the Super Fund program will be needed to clean up over 10,000 sites, which seems like an insurmountable task right now. Six billion tons of solid and hazardous waste are generated in the United States each year. 400 million pounds of toxins are released into our waterways by US industry each year, according to data from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). A recent study predicts that at the current rate, it will take between 30 and 35 years and $253 billion to clean up most of the country’s known and yet-to-be-discovered toxic waste sites. The EPA projects that it will need to remediate at least 294,000 hazardous waste sites – and that number could rise to 355,000.
THE PROTECTIVE APPROACH?
The EPA, in implementing the Safe Drinking Water Act, has failed to establish national primary drinking water regulations for organic chemicals. Since 1975, the EPA has only published a very short list of maximum contaminant levels (MCl). The list includes a few pesticides and herbicides, a small number of inorganic chemicals, a standard for coliform bacteria, turbidity, radionuclides, and since 1979, trihalomethanes. A total of 130 priority pollutants.
The startling facts are that there are currently over 100,000 chemicals that have been released into our environment, with around 1,000 more chemicals being added every year. Yet the EPA only tests about three percent of them. In summary, municipal water utilities are required to test levels of only about 130 chemicals when there could be hundreds or even thousands of chemicals present in some in parts per million or billion that could potentially be dangerous for humans. How many combinations of chemical compounds are possible with a list of 100,000 individual chemicals?
Here’s an example of how scary the answer could be. Water supply utilities add chlorine to water as a much needed disinfectant to kill waterborne viruses and a number of bacteria. Most city water contains some degree of humic acid formed by the decomposition of plant and animal matter. In addition to chlorine being a known carcinogen, when chlorine comes into contact with humic acid, four other individual carcinogens are created, called trihalomethanes (THMs). Combine just two and get four! Now imagine the possibilities of mixing tens of thousands into your drinking water.
Water is the most important element to sustain life, second only to oxygen. We can live 40 days without food but only about 6 days without water. Water performs three main functions in our body. 1. It controls body temperature; 2. It carries nutrients from the food we eat to every cell in our body; and 3. Water replaces bodily fluids such as blood plasma, lymph, digestive juices, bile, etc. It washes and bathes every cell in the body, flushing out and carrying away toxic wastes and poisons. If water is so vital to our health and existence, shouldn’t we be drinking the healthiest water possible? What would that be, you ask? Distilled water.
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