Sunday, April 18, 2010

Where has all the water gone?

It rained here yesterday. . . and as rain fell from the sky I went to the tap and filled a container to water a plant on my deck. No kidding. I felt pretty sheepish as I poured the water on the plant. Over the years my water consumption has fluctuated a lot - in recent years I've grown a bit careless.

I try to be a reasonably good steward of everything but I really take water for granted. Recently, I read that while three-fourths of the planet is covered in water, only one percent of that water is freshwater "suitable for consumption by humans." Hmmm. . . for the benefit of my children and hoped-for future grandchildren I should maybe think a little bit more about water consumption. So, I did a little research and learned many other interesting/frightening/appalling and questionable statistics. You won't want to read all of that, but one thing that I learned is worth sharing. We all have a water "footprints" (don't you love that image?!) composed of the water we consume directly (for drinking, bathing, laundering, etc.) and our indirect, or virtual, water consumption (for irrigation, manufacturing, energy) . Careful direct water usage doesn't guarantee a small water footprint.

Confused? Here's what virtual consumption looks like: a meal that includes meat uses hundreds of times as much water as one that doesn't because it takes water to grow the feed that is fed to the animal. More water is used to prepare and package the meat before it ever arrives at the market. Making the packaging consumes still more water. Even more surprising - drinking a beverage other than water has mind-boggling ratios: the next best choice is tea which takes 90 liters of water to produce .75 liters of tea. Coffee (my beverage of choice which will now be savored instead of inhaled) takes 9 times that much water to produce a CUP! Water is the only 1:1 option.

So what do we want to tell our children about water usage? Is it OK to use as much as we like because it's abundant here in North America and recycles itself through the water cycle? Must I ration everything to be a good steward? Children need to understand that water is God's creation; it is a gift to us from God. We are blessed to live where water is plentiful. From there I think it follows that we should teach our children, and ourselves, to use water with deep gratitude. When I am truly grateful I treasure the gift and the giver. Using the gift connects me to the giver. Teaching gratitude for water is another way we can connect our children to God in daily life.

Swim, and drink, gratefully - the water is a gift from the God who loves you!

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