Letter: Why water maters

Our planet is in a crisis. In 2015, we saw the hottest temperatures ever recorded, and as our environment suffers, we continue to contaminate our precious water. At the present rate, many cities will be running very low on water in just a few years.

I remember the first time I saw a small bottle of water for sale, and I thought it was silly, nobody is going to buy water when anyone can get it free! Well, think again. I buy all of my drinking water today. Selling water is big business, and it is likely to get even bigger.
I watched the peaceful Standing Rock protest, and I visited the camp there in January at a time when people were hopeful that the drilling could be stopped. But the drilling has resumed. Now we see the failed protest at Bears Ear, and drilling will go forward there. And the pipelines will leak. Next, Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument will be put on the block.

In November, I attended a water summit in Minneapolis on why water matters. During the conference, there was an oil leak at Standing Rock. The size of the leak was much larger than reported. Of course, we all know that water is important, and for most of us in the United States, we’ve had free, safe water all of our lives. Water is the most important resource on this planet, but we take it for granted. Our lives depend on it, yet we continue to contaminate it.

Water provides us with tremendous power, but do we respect it? Water has provided us with a course of transportation, but do we protect it? We admire the oceans and rivers for their beauty, but are they sacred to us?

This water crisis calls for crisis intervention. We need to respond in dramatic ways. We could raise the cost of gasoline to four or five dollars a gallon. That would give many the incentive to find alternate transportation. We could develop bus lines that meet peoples’ needs. I know a person who works at Walmart and arrives two hours early because the bus can’t get him there closer to the start of his shift. No wonder we see empty buses.

Before the last election, there was a lot of talk about repairing this country’s infrastructure. This is a $3 trillion project, and it seems there is no money for it. But as plans are made to redo our roads and bridges, we can consider entirely different solutions that not only address construction but also address better water management.

Our cities are covered with cement parking lots, driveways and rooftops. We have large blacktop playgrounds and picnic areas, all preventing natural runoff of rainwater. New plans would include many more trees, permeable landscaping, open spaces and green rooftops that would naturally manage water. Philadelphia plans to convert 34 percent of its space to natural water management by 2050. Natural water management has been researched and developed and is ready to be implemented. It is beneficial to nature, health and is cost effective.

A few years ago, Australia had a 7-year drought. When the rains returned, all homes were required to have built-in rainwater collecting structures. This water was used for cleaning and lawns and miscellaneous uses. The response was dramatic and immediate.

Once again our politicians have us focused on factors and events that distract us from the more important issues. Other issues may be important, but it’s hard to focus on them if you’re dying of thirst.

Eliida Lakota, Pekin

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