Our use of fresh water is frivolous. I understand that it feels great to stand under the running water of a shower. We are mainly made out of water, perhaps we like being one with our element. Shockingly, one in ten people on earth live without access to potable water. Globally one third of all schools lack access to safe water and adequate sanitation (for more info follow this link). Yet, US houses are measured by the number of bathrooms they have, the more on-suite and private bathrooms the better.
That would be maybe alright, if Southern California’s drinking water supplying 30 million people wouldn’t come nearly half from groundwater and the rest from various aqueducts from far away from the Eastern Sierra Nevada watershed to the Colorado River. Recent years saw droughts following dry years, water reservoirs are at an all time low, the Colorado river carries the least amount of water in recorded history.
Is there a solution to this constant drain of groundwater and the water table in California, Kansas, Nevada, Texas, Arizona to name only a few states? One rainy year won’t fix the problem. Like many communities in the Southwest, Los Angeles was built on the promise of life and water, but Los Angeles is slowly draining the life out of its surrounding lakes, watersheds and states. The Colorado River used to feed a large wetland delta at the Sea of Cortez and today not even one drop makes it there. Four states divide the water up before it reaches the Mexican border, where only 10% of the water is left and is then used for agriculture. None of the water reaches the Sea for more than 60 years now. In 2014 the dams were opened, when for one week the Colorado River ran freely and touched the Sea of Cortez again. Watch here a trailer for the documentary ‘Watershed’ produced, directed and narrated by Robert Redford about the event. The Colorado Delta revitalized nearly instantaneously during this brief experiment. Shortly after, it regressed again back into its permanent state of an ecological disaster. The effects are felt throughout the Northern Sea of Cortez, where many animal species died out or are endangered. Most famously the black pearl. Nature finds a way to cope with the changed climate, by way of a kind of downsizing. But can we or will we survive?
Even if we don’t believe in climate change, we can understand that the diversion and depletion of a mighty river, that has carved the Grand Canyon, no less, has enormous consequences. Or that pollution is omnipresent around the globe in the air, all waters and on land.
If we only look at the direct effects on us, we might not catch the magnitude of our actions. If we would classify us, the human race, as part of the ecosystem earth, we might understand that every living being has a function. We exist in a cyclical chain of dependency. Just because we don’t feel that we are part of it and feel superior to all other flora and fauna, doesn’t mean that we don’t have an Achilles heal. So far only species became extinct, who don’t directly affect us, we think. As a species we feel invincible and rightfully so. We are earth’s top predator. All other major predators behave differently than us humans, yes, they kill their prey, like us, but they never take more than they need. That is the major difference. We take too much, we take over, without concern, indiscriminately. We are totally naive.
I don’t think that a lion reflects after hunting an antelope on not eating too much, so that his family and pride gets enough to eat, or on not killing too many antelopes so that the herd stays numerous, and that he might hunt them again the following week. But in effect, that is exactly what he does. The actions of a predator have a direct effect on him and his prey and he keeps the system in balance essential also for his survival. Were he to kill too few antelopes and the landscape would get overrun and possibly deforested. If he killed too many, there wouldn’t be enough antelopes to keep the vegetation in check and prune bushes and trees.
It’s a system of complete balance. I think, we got blinded by the power, which made us the top predator on earth. We don’t understand the system yet, that ants clean up the earth’s surface and wales keep with their poo the ocean’s nitrogen level in balance. We haven’t found our role in this yet. We can’t help but destroy, and if we understand that we are the culprit, we don’t know how to fix it.
We humans are kind of bullies in a china shop. It saddens me, that our priorities seem all wrong. The bullies never really win, they are alone in the end, because nobody likes them and everyone has left. Humans cannot exist in a vacuum, we need the ecosystem earth, and I hope we will realize this soon and change our ways. One day at a time. One step at a time.
This blog concludes the Water Series