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 ft3 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 is expected to reach 1,200m/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 ¼ 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 nations 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 6 billion tons of solid and hazardous waste are generated in the United States each year. 400 million pounds of toxics are discharged each year into our waterways by American Industry, according to recent data from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). A recent projects that at the current pace, it will take between 30 and 35 years and $253 billion dollars to cleanup 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 cities 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.
The consequences of EPA’s failure to establish standards for organic chemical contaminants in drinking water are very serious. First, because the establishment of standards is a necessary prerequisite for triggering monitoring of drinking water quality, water suppliers are not presently required to monitor the water they sell for organic chemical contamination. The only contaminants they must look for are the relatively small number presently included in the current regulations.
Thus, unless chemical contamination of a supply is so gross as to cause taste, odor or public health problems, most water utilities across the country do not routinely monitor for unregulated contaminants and accordingly, do not know the chemical quality of the water they provide. Second, and equally important, other regulatory programs designed to prevent contamination of ground water are keyed to the National Primary Drinking Water Regulations.
Under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) leachate from hazardous waste landfills is only tested for the presents of chemicals included on the agencies short list of primary drinking toxic chemicals at thousands of hazardous waste sites across the country continue to seep into the nations underground, contaminate the land, and poison the air. The U.S. Accounting Office says that the Super Fund program will be required to clean up, in excess of 300,000 sites, which appears to be at the present time, an insurmountable task 6 billion tons of solid and hazardous waste are generated in the United States each year. 400 million pounds of toxics are discharged each year into our waterways by American Industry, according to recent data from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
In 1997, Americans generated 340 million tons of municipal waste, which averaged 1.272 tons per person. It is estimated that since 1990, more than 11 billion tons of domestic and foreign waste have been disposed in the U.S.. This is equal to covering every acre in the nation with 4.7 tons of waste. Relying on EPA’s Franklin Associates, which calculates price per ton of municipal waste disposal at a conservative $100/ton, the total cost to consumers of all waste disposed in the U.S. since 1990, is in excess of $1.1 trillion.
Cover Up Or Watered Down Facts
It is interesting to hear how so many water utilities brag about the superior quality of their water. San Diego boasts of its water quality when at the same time it contains 500 to 600 milligrams per liter of dissolved solids which is considered undesirable for drinking by most health standards.
Sierra Club director, Carl Pope, is the author of “Hazardous Waste in America”; recently wrote in California Magazine: The water that is rejected at the Sacramento tap flows into the city sewers, where it mixes with household waste and industrial effluent containing a variety of heavy metals and solvents. Some of these, but only some, are removed by the sewage treatment plant. The remainder dissolved in the effluent, pour down into the Delta where the Sacramento is joined by the San Joaquin River. Down the San Joaquin River come toxaphene, Mercury, Chlordane, PCB’s, Arsenic, Cadmium, Copper, Chromium, Lead and Selenium, all of which are on the EPA’s list of priority pollutants a mix making this is one of the most heavily polluted rivers in the state. Most of this pollution comes from surface and subsurface agricultural drainage; the remaining from mining, timber and other industrial activities.
The Delta itself adds more pesticides and herbicides from agricultural operations, heavy metals from energy facilities and organics from gasoline storage and transfer facilities. EPA officials estimate that of the 2.5 million storage tanks, that as many as 100,000 are leaking 11 million gallons a year. Other sources indicate that as many as 420,000 tanks may be leaking now, and experts predict that 75% of all tanks will begin leaking over the next 5 to 10 years.
Then as the water makes its way to San Jose, Los Angeles and San Diego in the California Aqueduct, it continues to pick up pesticide residue from spraying operations on farm lands along the aqueduct itself. “As goes California, so goes the rest of the country.”
Every year, millions of pounds of chemicals that can cause cancer, birth defects or sterility even in trace amounts are released directly or indirectly into our drinking water, with the approval, sanction and authority of state and federal agencies. In addition to these contaminants the water utilities add many others during treatment. A predicable mixture of hydrogen and oxygen, water is only truly pure if it is distilled. In its natural state, water contains a number of chemicals, among them sodium, calcium, fluoride, carbon dioxide and a number of minerals. Most minerals found in water are inorganic which our bodies cannot chelated and assimilate. But nature’s contribution is only a start.
As many as 60 chemicals may be added during the collection, treatment. And delivery process; ie, CHLORINE: a disinfectant to kill bacteria and other microorganisms. (Science has now discovered that when chlorine comes in contact with decayed plant and animal matter, trihalomethanes (THM’s) are created, which have been found to cause cancer in humans.) LIME: added to retard corrosion of pipes, or to neutralize water that is too acidic. COPPER SULFATE: to kill algae.
ALUMINUM SULFATE: to force solid particles to clump together and settle out. Sodium bisulfate or sulfur dioxide: added to correct an over-supply of chlorine in the water.
Thirty-two people die every day from bladder cancer in the USA. Although the National Academy of Sciences has identified as carcinogens 22 of the chemicals found in drinking water, and many others are known to be mutagenic or otherwise toxic, the vast majority of the estimated 1,200 chemicals so far detected in drinking water have not yet been tested. Little is known about the adverse health effects of many of these chemicals, especially in the minute amounts that may be present in drinking water.
What about the additional threat of combining the chemicals in water with those found in our foods? Such effects are not always immediate though. It may be decades, even generations, before the health problems appear, and just as long before scientist can be sure of the risks. With the aid of modern technology, water utilities are doing all they can to clean up the water. However, regardless of the fact that the chemicals and other cancer causing substances are at safe levels and considered fit for human consumption based on government safety standards, should we still drink it?
Do they drink their own? Los Angeles boasts of its water quality. “Despite spending $1 million in the last two years to assure Los Angeles residents that their tap water is not only safe to drink but also top quality, city officials spent $88,900 in public money during that time on bottled water from private firms. The Department of Water and Power, which supplies the city’s water and promotes it, spent the most on bottled water, paying $31,160.” Atlanta Journal Constitution 01/04/06
Since water is the most important single element for supporting life, second only to oxygen. Should it not be something that you know something about? We can live 40 days without food but cannot live much longer than 6 days without water. Water serves three major purposes in our bodies.
1. It controls body temperature.
2. It is the solvent for the foods we eat, carrying the nutrients to every cell of our body.
3. Water replaces bodily fluids such as blood plasma, lymph, digestive juices, bile etc. and washes and bathes every cell, 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.
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