Climate Change – Water

Prayer and Reflection:

“We thank you, Almighty God, for the gift of water. Over it the Holy Spirit moved in the beginning of creation. Through it you led the children of Israel out of their bondage in Egypt into the land of promise. In it your Son Jesus received the baptism of John and was anointed by the Holy Spirit as the Messiah, the Christ, to lead us, through his death and resurrection, from the bondage of sin into everlasting life.”  -The Book of Common Prayer

Water is the cradle of life, expression of God’s grace. “Just as water is the essence of all life, water is also the primary element in the life of a Christian, where the sacrament of Baptism marks the sacred source of the spiritual life” noted the Ecumenical Patriarch Batholomew. The Bible includes more than 500 references to the word water and countless more on water related subject like rivers, rain, seas, floods, and storms.

Our faith traditions teach that access to clean water is and should be a human right and one that must be honored and respected. Clean water is essential to living a life with dignity and each person should have sufficient access to water for personal and domestic needs (UN resolution on water).

1 Water Scarcity

As the population increases and climate change causes more droughts, water scarcity is becoming more of an issue.

Our water resources are being depleted and degraded as a consequence of our agricultural and industrial use of water, deforestation and climate change, over- consumption, waste, and pollution. Only three percent of the world’s water is fresh water and 1.1 billion people lack access to clean, safe drinking water.

Global agriculture uses nearly two quadrillion gallons of rainwater and irrigation water annually—enough to cover the entire United States with 2 feet of water and accounting for 70 percent of global water use.  Some of the products that demand the most water are coffee and rice. Coffee requires 2500 gallons of water to pro- duce a pound of coffee and rice requires 650 gallons of water per pound of rice.

Certain energy development uses a huge amount of water. Hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, is a process that uses a pressurized mixture of water, sand, and chemicals to extract natural gas from the earth. A 2009 report noted that each natural gas well requires approximately 2-4 million gallons of water

And nearly every region in the country has experienced water shortages in the last five years. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

By the middle of this century more than a third of all counties in the lower 48 states will be at higher risk of water shortages with more than 400 of the 1,100 counties facing an extremely high risk.

2. Conditions

Water is one of life’s most vital resources. Water pollution, however, is devastating to the environment and to the health and well-being of people in every nation and community. The federal government invests annually in water pollution mitigation and water treatment; however, the current funding is not enough to conduct even routine maintenance and clean up pollution.

Most of our large scale agriculture  production uses fertilizers and pesticides to protect the crops from harm and ensure high yields for the farmers. In addition, our cars and vehicles leave oil and other products on the roads. Both of these contaminants are washed into streams and rivers by rain resulting in what is known as stormwater. This threatens the health of the fish and other aquatic life by degrading the water quality.

Stormwater is a leading source of water pollution nation- ally. The Great Lakes, the largest group of freshwater lakes on  earth, suffer from stormwater runoff, and in  many places stormwater is the primary source of water pollution. Using less fertilizer, building rain barrels and rain gardens, and being aware of products around your home that would add to stormwater pollution (such as pet waste) are key to addressing the United States’ stormwater problem

On example . The Coastal Community Collaborative is a group of five native American and historically African American communities in coastal Louisiana that has come together  to protect their homes and ways of life that are dependent  on the unique systems found in the bayou. Over the years, oil drilling, oil infrastructure, hurricanes  and oil spills have seriously damaged the integrity of the ecosystem that these communities  depend on. The historical fresh water and salt water regions have changed and the health of the water that supports one of the largest fisheries in the world is no longer providing for the subsistence lifestyles these communities  have practiced  for thou- sands of year

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCA) releases an Infrastructure Report Card every four years, and in the most recent report in 2017 The US  scored a D on drinking water.

Closer to home, Friends of the Rappahannock have provided report cards of the river’s quality, including our area around Portobago. The latest 14 month project that ended in mid-year, 2018. The study broke concerns and problems into four different topics: stream ecology, human health, land use and community engagement. Each gets its own letter grade in the report in these four areas. Portobago Bay came out with a “B” overall of the criteria above and Rappahannock grade as a whole at “C”: See the report card

The Rappahannock River is one of the major tributaries to the Chesapeake Bay and therefore is a contributor of pollution to the Chesapeake Bay. The bay is listed as impaired due to excess Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Sediments. This means the Rappahannock River is impaired due to these pollutants.

The Rappahannock River also has multiple other impairments for different stretches of the main stem of the Rappahannock River and many of its tributaries. Each of these impairments can be for one of many pollutants and can be in a different stage of the TMDL process.

At Portobago Bay -Segment begins at the confluence of two intermittent tributaries around rivermile 6.66 and extends downstream to the end of the free-flowing waters. : Assessment: E. coli bacteria criterion excursions (3 of 11 samples – 27.3%) from station 3-PBC003.09 at Route 17

Nationally, run- off, transportation, and ocean acidification as a result of climate change are threatening the health of our marine eco- systems. Fish health and ocean biodiversity is largely threatened by declining water quality, algal blooms that result from changing temperatures, expanded use of aquaculture, and increased levels of toxins in the water system.

Declining water quality is threatening marine biodiversity which can lead to the collapse of entire marine eco- systems. Reports have indicated that if we fail to address declining water quality, seafood may disappear by 2048

Mountaintop removal coal mining has polluted thou- sands of streams and tributaries throughout Appalachia. To date, mountaintop removal coal mining has destroyed or damaged more than 2,000 miles of streams. These waterways are ruined when debris and toxics from the mines themselves are dumped off the mountains into the valleys, water, and communities below.

Climate change has also affected water supply As the world warms, more  groundwater evaporates into  the  atmosphere. In addition, we are seeing stronger storms but less frequent and consistent rain that is critical for recharging our water supply. This is putting added stress on our communities, farmers, and the whole of God’s creation who rely on water for survival. A recent report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association indicated that one in ten U.S. watersheds is stressed and other studies have indicated that at least eleven major cities could be threatened by a water shortage as a result of climate change in the next ten years including Cleveland, OH; Miami, FL; San Francisco, CA; Dallas, TX; and Washington DC just to name a few.

3. What We Can Do?

The average family uses approximately 300 gallons of water a day. While household water use accounts for less than ten percent of all freshwater used in the United States each year, there are many small changes we can make to reduce our water use.

You can estimate your total water usage here

10 things we can do  to use less water:

1 Taking shorter showers. Install Water-Saving Showerheads, Shower Timers, and Low-Flow Faucet Aerators 
Inexpensive water saving low-flow showerheads for restrictors are easy for the homeowner to install. Long showers can use five to ten gallons every unneeded minute. “Low-flow” means+ it uss less than 2.5 gallons per minut

2. Only run the clothes and dish washers when they are full,

3. Toilets

A–Buy an Adjustable Toilet Flapper
Installing an adjustable toilet flapper will allow for adjustment of each per flush use; the user can adjust the flush rate to the minimum per flush setting that achieves a single good flush each time.

B. Put Plastic Bottles or a Float Booster in Your Toilet Tank/ To cut down on water waste, put an inch or two of sand or pebbles inside each of two plastic bottles. Fill the bottles with water, screw the lids on, and put them in your toilet tank, safely away from the operating mechanisms. Or, buy an inexpensive tank bank or float booster. This may save ten or more gallons of water per day. Be sure at least three gallons of water remain in the tank so it will flush properly. If there is not enough water to get a proper flush, users will hold the lever down too long or do multiple flushes to get rid of waste. Two flushes at 1.4 gallons are worse than a single 2 gallon flush.

4 .Use every drop.Learn to repurpose water. One easy way is to capture under your colander the potable water you use to rinse fruits and veggies, and deposit it in the garden. Do the same while you wait for your hot water to come in. 

5  Double-dip dishes.Take a page from the past and make smart use of dual sinks. Instead of letting the water run while you wash dishes, fill one sink with hot, soapy water for washing, and the other with cool, clear water for rinsing. You’ll use half the water you otherwise would, according to the EPA. If your sink is a single model, use two large bowls for washing and rinsing. 

6 Minimize Use of Kitchen Sink Garbage Disposal Units
In-sink ‘garburators’ require lots of water to operate properly, and also add considerably to the volume of solids in a septic tank, which can lead to maintenance problems. Start a compost pile as an alternate method of disposing food waste. 

7 Opt for the Dishwasher Over Hand Washing
It may seem counterintuitive, but it turns out washing dishes by hand uses a lot more water than running the dishwasher, even more so if you have a water-conserving model. The EPA estimates an efficient dishwasher uses half as much water, saving close to 5,000 gallons each year. 

8 Keep a Bottle of Drinking Water in the refrigerator
Running tap water to cool it off for drinking water is wasteful. Store drinking water in the fridge in a safe drinking bottle. If you are filling water bottles to bring along on outdoor hikes, consider buying a LifeStraw personal water filter, which enables users to drink water safely from rivers or lakes or any available body of water. 

9 Don’t Let the Faucet Run While You Clean Vegetables
Just rinse them in a stoppered sink or a pan of clean water. 

10  Use Your Water Meter to Check for Hidden Water Leaks
Read the house water meter before and after a two-hour period when no water is being used. If the meter does not read exactly the same, there is a leak.