It’s Elemental: Water

The 1st Element – Water
If the earth had formed on January 1st, life would have started on February 26th, dinosaurs would have arrived on Dec 10th that year, only to vanish 16 days later and homo sapiens would only have appeared very late on December 31st.
In less than 1 minute, humans would have drastically altered the unique balance between land, seas and atmosphere. As a species we have created a reality based on the premise that the elements are finite resources which we can pollute, waste, own, distribute unequally and disregard without consequence. If we can re-learn how to honour the elements and work with them, the human race could cease to be the most destructive parasite in the history of life.
In the next few issues of La Chispa we will be looking at each element in turn – the wonders, the facts and the issues surrounding it. We will try to look at the good news and the bad news both globally and locally. We will also be offering some creative solutions to frightening problems.
This issue is dedicated to water – the ultimate source of life.
75% of the earth is covered in water – only 2.7% of it is fresh.
Rain is our only sustainable source of fresh water.
Aquifers are the world’s storage jars, holding fresh water underground. The aquifers in America are the largest in the world. 1 – 2 metres of this water is extracted each year – nature puts back half an inch.
Aquifers are our main water storage and yet we pollute them. 60% of nitrate fertilisers applied in non-organic farming methods seeps into ground water.
90% of fresh water is used by industries (largely producing luxury items for the western world) while 1 in 5 people on our planet does not have access to clean drinking water.
On average, an American uses 600 litres of water a day, a European 250 and an African 30.
While the west has power showers and jet car washes, 2.2 million people die every year because they do not have clean water. That’ 6,000 a day.
Local issues
The biggest problems facing Andalucía are thoughtless projects run by corrupt officials, draining water resources in order to feed golf courses, develop non sustainable tourism and pander to bottled water factories.
To meet the demands of the Costa del Sol, European supermarkets and factories, springs are illegally sold, wells illegally drilled, ancient irrigation systems (‘asequias’) are cemented, dams are built and the ecologically disastrous green houses are allowed to flourish.
The aquifer in Torvizcon, Las Alpujarras is being drained for cherry tomatoes destined for British supermarkets. The Danone owned bottled water factory in Lanjaron has recently been granted an extra 15 – 25 litres of water a second from the river. A report by the Spanish conservation group ACPES showed that the factory had requested 500 litres a day for each worker and 2500 litres a day per truck. Why have they been granted precious spring water to wash their trucks with?
My humble understanding of the water issue on a global, local and individual level is that due to the powers-that-be consumerist priorities we are:
Destroying delicate eco systems that nurture rainfall, replenish aquifers and the preserve ice sheets of Antarctica,
Polluting the reserves that we have and,
Tolerating an inequality throughout the world that literally kills in droves.
We have created societies that think they are reliant upon excessive luxury items, like dishwashers, coca cola, washing machines and infinite pointless products. The water in these places gets polluted by excessive waste and the inhabitants are encouraged to buy bottled water rather than take a closer look at their lifestyles. The bottled water companies, in turn, drain the reserves of areas of the world where people generally live a more sustainable life style.
Meanwhile millions of men, women and children in some countries do not have access to a glass of clean of water.
Think about it – do what you can to change it!
Election – in May this year (2007) there will be important local elections throughout Andalucía. Make sure you are registered to vote and that you know which candidate has the best green credentials! (see Que Hay – Green candidate for Mayor in Málaga)
Conservation – make it a point to use water sparingly and install conservation implements into your house. See (in English) or many back issues of La Chispa
Action – get informed, get involved!
See for bi-lingual concise information about local issues and links to relevant groups throughout the region. See for information on the fight to save the Rio Grande in the Guadalhorce Valley.
"Europeans spend more on perfume than the 4 billion UK pounds needed to provide 2.6 billion people with access to clean water." World Wildlife Fund
Any comments or questions feel free to contact me at
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This post is also available in: Spanish

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