In 1950, the U.S. took 12 trillion gallons of water from the ground; by 1980 the figure more than doubled and is still increasing at an alarming rate. The Ogallala Aquifer is being depleted at a rate of 12 billion cubic meters (420 billion ft. or 9,729,000 acre feet) per year, amounting to a total depletion to date of a volume equal to the annual flow of 18 Colorado Rivers (4000 cubic feet per second).
Time Magazine reported,” The Ogallala aquifer is being sucked dry! Some estimates say it will dry up in as little as 25 years. Many farmers in the Texas High Plains, which rely particularly on the underground source, are now turning away from irrigated agriculture as they become aware of the hazards of over -pumping. The aquifer stretches from South Dakota through Nebraska, where two-thirds of its water lies, to Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Texas. For the past three decades, farmers have pumped water out of the Ogallala as if it were inexhaustible. The annual overdraft the amount of water not replenished is nearly equal to the flow of the Colorado River. A report by the engineering firm, Camp, Dresser and McKee, Estimate that by the year 2020 some 5.1 million acres of irrigated land will dry up.
Today, the American Southwest is the most heavily irrigated area in the world, transforming a desert into a veritable Garden of Eden. However, this heavy irrigation may destroy the land by salt seepage. The 1,400 mile long Colorado River is the lifeblood of 11 million people from Denver to San Diego. In fact, 1.5 million acres of prime farm land are irrigated by it today. This magnificent river is being slowly poisoned by salt loading from saline western soils runoff and salt concentration, caused by evaporation and increased use of the river in the seven states it serves. Levels of salt have reached more than 800 milligrams per liter and are expected to reach 1,200 m/l in the near future. The EPA’s maximum safe level for drinking water is 500 parts per million, over 500 ppm is considered unsuitable for drinking. (That translates into teaspoon of salts per gallon of water.) In addition to the depletion of ground water sources, there is less precipitation dropped on the land and more in the ocean, due to shifting air currents and globally changing weather patterns.
WHAT COULD BE WORSE?
As if a decreasing water supply were not bad enough we are now rapidly destroying what little water we have left with hazardous wastes. Toxic chemicals at thousands of hazardous waste sites across the country continue to seep into the nation’s underground, contaminating the land and groundwater, and poisoning the air. The U.S. General Accounting Office says that the Super Fund program will be required to clean up in excess of 10,000 sites, which appears to be at the present time an insurmountable task. Six billion tons of solid and hazardous waste are generated in the United States each year. 400 million pounds of toxins are discharged each year into our waterways by American Industry, according to data from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). A recent study projects that, at the current pace, it will take between 30 and 35 years and $253 billion dollars to clean up most of the nation’s known and yet-to-be-discovered toxic waste sites. EPA projects that it will have to remediate at least 294,000 hazardous waste sites – and that number could go as high as 355,000.
THE PROTECTIVE APPROACH?
The E.P.A. in implementing the Safe Drinking Water Act, has failed to establish national primary drinking water regulations for organic chemicals. Since 1975, E.P.A. has issued only a very short list of maximum contaminant levels (MCls). 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 in excess of 100,000 chemicals that have been released to our environment, with roughly 1000 additional chemicals added every year. Yet the EPA only tests about three percent of them. In summary, municipal water utilities are required to test for levels of only 130 or so chemicals when there could be hundreds or even thousands of chemicals present in some in parts per million or billion that could be potentially dangerous to humans. How many compound chemical combinations are possible with a list of 100,000 individual chemicals?
Here is an example of how scary the answer could be. Water utilities add chlorine to the water as a very necessary disinfectant for killing water born viruses and a number of bacteria. Most all city water contains some degree of humic acid formed by decaying plant and animal matter. In addition to chlorine being a known carcinogen, when chlorine comes in contact with humic acid, four more individual carcinogens are created called trihalomethanes (THM’s). Combine just two and get four! Now imagine the possibilities of mixing 10’s of thousands in your drinking water.
Water is the most important single element for supporting life, second only to oxygen. We can live 40 days without food but only about 6 days without water. Water serves three major purposes in our bodies. 1. It controls body temperature; 2. It carries the nutrients in the foods we eat to every cell of our body; and 3. Water replaces bodily fluids such as blood plasma, lymph, digestive juices, bile etc. It washes and bathes every cell of the body, flushing and carrying away waste materials and toxic poisons. If water is so vital to our health and existence, should we not we drink the healthiest water possible? What would that be, you ask? Distilled water.