The State of Water

By Kathy Panko, Environmental Issues Group                       

Water is our most precious natural resource. The average American uses about 2,088 gallons in 24 hours.  That’s not only tap water, but includes food, clothes, and even newspapers/magazines, which all have a cost in water.  For example, a half-pound burger comes from a cow that consumed 220 gallons of water; it takes about 700 gallons to make a shirt; a pair of pants take about 2,000 gallons from seed to cotton; and a newspaper/magazine is made of trees, ink, and printing presses, which soar water usage. Life is thirsty and drinks way more water than we realize. Earth’s population grows 1.2% every year, but the total amount of water on earth remains the same. This is all we have, so we need to be careful how we use it.

florida bulldog - evergladesAmericans have plenty of potable water, but it doesn’t all taste good.  Soil impurities, algae, bacteria, and chlorine used in treatment, often make sinks smell like fish tanks. What’s in a glass of water?  That can vary widely from city to city and house to house.  Here are a few items that might show up:

Pesticides: Insecticides/herbicides can wash into rivers and lakes and seep into groundwater.

Fluoride:  As rocks erode, they naturally release fluoride into soil, air, and most water sources.  Because it can prevent tooth decay, many communities add extra fluoride to the drinking supply.

Chlorine:  Water treatment facilities add chlorine as a disinfectant, and it’s safe at low levels.  But some disinfectants produce byproducts that have been linked to miscarriages.

Arsenic:  Arsenic occurs naturally in rocks and soil, and is linked to increased risk of cancer.  A water treatment plant should remove the poison, but private well owners must periodically test for it.

Lead:  Old, corroded metal pipelines can deposit this neurotoxin into drinking water, as in Flint, Michigan.  Children who ingest lead can develop permanent learning disabilities.

Algae: Agricultural runoff or warm water can stimulate fish-killing algae blooms. Algae in drinking water is just a nuisance and a musty, fish taste remains even after the treatment plant.

Fracking wells inject over 100 billion gallons of high pressure fluid blasts into the U.S. each year.  The mixture of chemicals crack underlying shale, releasing oil and natural gas trapped inside.   Because Florida sits on a giant bed of porous limestone, environmentalists are concerned that fracking in Florida could result in acid and other fracking chemicals leaking into drinking water.  Florida lawmakers are currently considering an all-out fracking ban.  Scientists have linked individual cases of contamination to fracking, but a 2016 EPA report on its safety was inconclusive.  Companies do not have to disclose what is actually in the mixture. These chemicals are trade secrets, so it can be difficult for scientists to gauge risk.  Some components are: Methanol – an alcohol often found in antifreeze that winterizes fracking fluid. If you drink it, you could go blind or die.  2-Butoxyethanol –This solvent keeps the fluid stable at high temperatures.  Inhaled, it can damage lungs and red blood cells. Sodium Chloride (Aka: table salt) – Even small amounts seeping into rivers and lakes can kill freshwater fish. Diesel – Makes the fluid slick, lowering friction. But its cancer-causing components might contaminate groundwater.  Another result of fracking – earthquakes.  Fracking has made Oklahoma 2017’s most high-risk state for earthquakes.

Toxic Lake - The Weather ChannelWater is not everywhere, but it is pretty much involved in everything.  The quality of the water we drink and quantity we use is important for us and future generations.  We must protect our natural environment and our most precious natural resource.

Sun Sentinel                       IFL Science                        Popular Science

January 24, 2017              February 3, 2017             March/April 2017

                                                                   

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