Water I The Importance

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Water I The Importance

 

WATER-How Important It Is and Current Problems of Loss:

GlacierGeneral Information: Water is a tasteless, odorless, and nearly colorless substance in its pure form. It is essential to all known forms of life and is known as the universal solvent; this due to its strongly polar electical charge such that one end of the molecule is very positive and the other very negative. As such, it can pull things apart molecularly and hence it's ability as a solvent. Water is extremely abundant on Earth. It exists in many places and forms. Mostly, we see it in the oceans, polar ice caps, in streams, lakes, and rivers. It is also seen is rain clouds, during rain and in fresh water aquifers. Uniquely, it can be found in three forms: liquid, solid, gaseous.

On this earth, fresh water makes up only 2.5% of all water: 1/3 of that is located on the North Pole; 1/3 on the South Pole and the final third in all the lakes, rivers and estuaries on the planet. And still, all fresh water combined is only 2.5% of all the water in the world. The rest, of course, is salt water. As stated, most of the Earth's Fresh water is bound up on the polar ice caps. The rest is present in soil or in deep underground aquifers. Less than 1% of the Fresh Water (not all water, just the fresh water) on Earth is accessible for direct human consumption either in surface water or ground water shallow enough to be tapped at an affordable price. The amount of moisture on Earth has not changed. The water the dinosaurs drank millions of years ago is the same water that falls as rain today. But, will there be enough for a far more crowded planet?

  

Interesting Water Facts: 
>16 Billion gallons of fresh water are produced daily by the world's 14,450 desalination plants.  
>300 million people now get their water from the sea or from brackish groundwater that is too salty to drink. 
>13 Trillion additional gallons of fresh water will be produced by the world's desalination plants in the next decade. 
>9.25 million trillion gallons is the world's fresh water.  
>83 million more people are born each year and the demand for fresh water rises accordingly. 
>100 gallons a day is what the average American uses at home. 
>5 gallons is what millions of the world's poor subsist on each day. 
>3.7 miles is the average that women in developing countries walk each day to get water. 
>3.3 million people around the world die annually due to dirty water and no toilets, most are kids. 
>1 inch is how much the earth's axis is tipped by the weight of China's Gorges Resovoir. 
>85 miles is the longest water tunnel in the world; supplying NYC. It also leaks 35 million gallons of water a day.  
>150 Billion gallons of water is lost each year to evaporation in swimming pools in the U.S. 

 

pic1

   China's Gorges Dam and Reservoir on the Ganges River. It is the biggest hydroelectric plant of any type in the world. The cost was $26 Billion US.  


On the planet, water is continuously moving through the cycle involving evaporation, precipitation and runoff to the sea. Water fit for human consumption is called "potable" water. This extremely important natural resource is becoming more and more scarce in certain places on the Earth as human population in those areas keeps increasing. Water's availability is becoming a major social and economic concern.


Human Composition: Different people have different percentages of water. Babies have the most being born at about 78% water content. Yet by the age of 1, a toddler's water composition has changed to 68%. In adult men, the composition of water in the body is about 60%. Bear in mind that fat tissue does not have as much water as lean mass. In adult women, fat makes up more of the body tissue than men so they have about 55% of their bodies made up of water.

Why Is Water So Important For UsWater's crucial role in life is reflected in body composition as we have just discussed. Next to Oxygen, water is the most important element in human physiology. An average human can survive for weeks without food, but only a few days without water. Water comprises 80% of our blood, 73% of our brain, 73% of our muscle and 22% of bone tissue. Without a rich supply of water in our bodies, most of our bodily functions would stop working. Besides acting as a giant cooling system that regulates body temperature, water also carries Oxygen and nutrients to all the cells in the body and helps convert food into energy. Water protects and cushions vital organs and joints, keeps the liver and kidneys functioning properly, helps metabolize fats, it removes and detoxifies waste from our system and is the basis for all our fluid secretions such as sweat, saliva, tears, etc.

Incredibly, no other element within our body can claim to do so many things for us as water does. On a daily basis we loose up to 100 ounces of water through a combination of urine and sweat. Even the simple act of exhaling casues us to loose precious amounts of water vapor. Then, add in climate factors such as heat, humidity and water loss accelerates markedly. Add to that strenuous exercise and water loss increases again. Diet can account for major fluctuations in water needs. Highly salted foods have a tendancy to trigger our thirst mechanisms quite rapidly. Those individuals on high-protein bodybuilding or weight loss regimes require extra water to flush out assorted waste products.

 

Without quick and constant water replenishment, our bodies dip into a state of dehydration characterized by dizziness, headaches, fatigue, sensations of extreme hunger and fuzzy short term memory issues. Babies and the elderly must be extremely careful in defending against dehydration. These two groups are especially susceptible to excessive water depletion. Generally speaking, a healthly adult should strive to consume between two and three quarts of water per day. Don't rule out sensible fruit and vegitable eating as well which contain a lot of water. Remember, when you actually feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated, that is to say, the sensation of thirst lags behind the physiology of dehydration. So keep a steady stream of water into your body throughout the day.

What's The Problem? Over-consumption and contamination are altering the Earth's fresh water ecosystems to a greater extent than terrestrial ecosystems. Add to that the melting of the polar ice caps sending billions of gallons of fresh water into the salty oceans. Major rivers such as the Colorado, the Nile, the Ganges and the Yellow River in China are used so extensively that little of their water reaches to the sea. Worldwide, the drinking water of two billion people is contaminated by animal waste and chemical pollution.

*Startling pic of a man standing next to a glacier that is actually melting in Antartica - as the picture was being taken. **We didn't discuss the eco-disruption of all the fresh water being dumped into the oceans of the world but the dilution of the salt content of the oceans plays havoc with the marine life to say nothing of rising sea water.


 The Greenland ice shelf as well as both Poles are seeing their ice melt at an unprecedented pace; far faster than scientists expected even in their "worst case" scenarios. This massive influx of fresh water into the salty oceans upsets the salinity of the oceans thus affecting the entire aquatic biosphere to say nothing of water levels rising, the general cooling of the water, migration patterns of all fish and aquatic mammals alike. Needless to say, it is a sitution of grave concern. As well, humans are loosing a vast amount of stored fresh water reserves.

Consider the following:

1) Ogallala Aquifer: The largest aquifer in the U.S., stretching from Texas to South Dakota, is being drained 8 times faster than it can be recharged. The amount of acreage supported by the Ogallala Aquifer reached its peak in 1978 and fell 20% in less than a decade.

2) India: Almost all water withdrawals are proceeding at double the rate of recharge, causing a drop in aquifers of three to 10 feet per year! - More than any other nation on Earth.

3) Around the World: In many areas of the planet, groundwater is called "fossil water" beacuse it is not renewable. Three-fourths of the water supply in Saudi Arabia is considered to be fossil water.

Between 1900 and 1995, global water consumption rose six-fold, or almost double the population growth. Agriculture currently accounts for 75% of the world's fresh-water consumption. Under current irrigation practices, it takes 1000 tons of water to produce a ton of wheat. At least 15,000 tons of water is needed to produce one ton of beef and nearly that much to produce one ton of cotton. According to the "Millennium Ecosystem Assessment of 2005," the world's fresh water supply cannot sustain the current, much less future, demand. The fresh water supply in 36 nations in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East is not sufficient to meet grain production needs.

 

Such extensive water use has been made possible by two technologies: electric pumps (for ground water) and dams. In 1950 there were 5,270 large dams worldwide. By 2000 there were more than 36,500. In the U.S., only 2% of rivers run unimpeded by dams. In the long term, dams are only temporary because they will fill up with silt, Where soil erodes easily, as in China; dams can fill with silt at 2.3%/year.

CONTAMINATION:

According to the EPA, agriculture is responsible for 70% of the river and stream pollution. In the U.S., where about half of the public water systems get water from underground, the EPA found more than 50% of wells sampled to be contaminated with nitrates from agricultural and lawn fertilizer, manure, sewage, sludge and septic tank run off. 

The sources of all this excess nitrogen also release phosphorus, which can cause eutrophication (Def: an increase in the concentration in chemical nutrients in an ecosystem to an extent that increases in the primary productivity of the ecosystem) in lakes and slow moving rivers. Excess phosphorus stimulates excessive growth of algae, which, when it dies, uses up available oxygen in the water. Lakes then become green and foul smelling and totally devoid of fish. Not surprisingly, they are deemed unfit for drinking water. This eco-phenomenon has long been a problem in the Great Lakes and Europe and is now occurring in South America and Southeast Asia. The mineral phosphorus naturally cycles through the soil to plants and then to animals many times before reaching the ocean sediments in a process that might take millions of years. But, since humans began mining phosphorus, the cycle has speeded up to such an extent that the amount of mineral in the biosphere has almost quadrupled.

 

Another serious contaminant from the widespread use of agriculture is pesticides. These chemical agents run off fields into streams and seep into ground water. More than 1/3 of Iowa's population consumes water contaminated with pesticides, including the cancer causing agents Xylene and Toluene.

Dangerous toxins are also emitted from industries and urban sewage treatment facilities. The chemical industry in the largest generator or industrial hazerdous waste, not surprisingly. Metal fabrication and battery manufacturing emit heavy metals. Even the so-called "clean" high tech industries have used oranochlorine solvents that have seeped into groundwater causing cancer, miscarriages, and other assorted birth defects. In recent years, scientists have detected chemicals in the water from personal care products and pharmaceuticals that the sewage treatment facikity did not break down. This of course would include plastic items such as tampons, disposable razors and such.

As many as 1.3 billion people lack access to clean drinking water. More than 5 million die of waterborne disease each year. Pollutants, as well as low water levels and warm water from industries are contributing to the extinction of fish. Scientists now believe that the extra limbs found on frogs and toads in the Midwwest may be due to the use of fertilizers.

OTHER CONCERNS:

According to Justus von Leibig's "Law of the Minimum," the amount of life in a given environment is limited by the material need that is in shortest supply. Fairly common-sensical one would think, but many scientists belive that freah water will be the limiting factor for the human race. The UN's Global Environment Outlook projects that demand for fresh water will rise by 50% in the developing world and 18% in industrialized countries by 2025. At the same time, climate change is shrinking the glaciers that provide drinking water for nearly 1/3 of all humanity. Of all the environmental secuity issues facing the nations of the world, an adequate supply of clean water may be the most important.

Add to all of this, the fact that water is unequally distributed around the world and just an unequally consumed. The average American uses 2500 cubic yards of water per year. This is about 4 times as much as the average Swiss and 70 times as much as the averagae Ghanaian. By 2025, 2/3 of the world's population is expected to be water stressed. The Middle East and Africa are already water-poor, and most Asian countries are likely to have severe water problems by 2025. The Arab-Israeli wars have been fought partly over water. It will get worse and many predict that future wars between larger powers will indeed be fought over water, not oil.

IS ANYTHING BEING DONE ABOUT SAVING WATER?

The UN General Assembly has declared 2005-2015 the "International Decade For Action: Wate for Life" with a goal of reducing the number of people without access to safe, fresh drinking water by 50%. This will involve protecting water resources from contamination and ending the unsustainable exploitation of water resources. Also, many non-profit organizations are forming in response to the dire warnings about our global loss of drinkable fresh water. The "Blue Planet Project" is a global initiative fighting for water justice and works to secure water rights for all and develope sensible solutions to more properly exploit our fresh water without wasting or contaminating it.

Many experts see reclamation and reuse of waste-water for agricultural, industrial and even potable uses as a way of salvaging and even increasing the global fresh water supply. Irrigation systems can channel treated urban waste-water to agricultural areas. In Israel, 50,000 acres of land are irrigated this way. Singapore now treats domestic wastewater with membrane technology and UV disinfection and then actually reuses it for drinking water! That city's goal is to become completely self-sufficient.

In the U.S., the Clean Water Act has actually been highly effective in cleaing up rivers and lakes: 66% are now safe for swimming compared to only 36% in 1970. Other promising efforts are being carried out by regional collaborations, such as a California program to halt degredation of the San Francisco Bay Delta system which is used for irrigation and drinking water and receives much of the state's agricultural runoff. 18 state and Federal agencies have cooperated to develope a 30-year plan for long -term sustainability of the estuary. 


One  glass of water shuts  down midnight hunger pangs for almost 100% of the  dieters studied in a University study. 

Lack of  water is the #1 trigger of daytime  fatigue. 

Preliminary research indicates that  
8-10  glasses of water a day could  significantly ease back and joint pain for up to 80%  of sufferers. 

A mere 2% drop in body  watercan trigger fuzzy  short-term memory, trouble with basic math, and  difficulty focusing on the computer screen

Drinking 5 glasses of  water daily 
decreases the risk of  colon cancer by 45%, plus it can slash the risk of  breast cancer by 79%, and one is 50% less likely to  develop bladder cancer


See also:

"Human Appropriation of the World's Fresh Water Supply," www.globalchange.umich.edu, 1/4/06 
Vitousel, et.al., Science, 6/97 
Finnigan W, "Leasing the Rain," New Yorker, 4/8/02 
The Amicus Journal, Winter 2000 
Biocycle, 6/98 
Sanford, Cynthia & Oosterhout, J, "Protecting Groundwater," The Nat Voter, June-July/ 91 
Erlich & Erlich, "Healing the Planet," 1991 
Hinrichsen D, robey B, Upadhyay UD, "Solutions for a Water-short World. Population Reports, Series  M #14,"  Baltimore, Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, Population Information Program, 12/97. 
Cameron G, "Vibrant Life," 11-12/2001

Dr. Haberstroh is a Everett Chiropractor and Boston Chiropractor. Find us at Boston Spine Clinics.

 

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