By Kate Crowley
Moose Lake Star Gazette 

Water is life; love water as you love life

Going Nature's Way


Today we walked around Lake Superior with our Spanish daughter, Natalia Ruiz. We did it in far less time than we did the first time in 2010, but that’s because we chose Lac Superieur in the Bois de Boulogne in Paris, France. It took less than an hour, but we followed the shoreline and enjoyed seeing the ducks, coots and swans. The female swan was sitting on a nest near shore and her mate was not happy with any dogs that came too close to the water’s edge. We watched one spaniel frantically pull itself up and out of the water, with the swan hissing close behind. You don’t want to mess with an angry swan. A strike from their wings is capable of breaking bones.

This extended vacation began on the Danube and has since included time on the Canals of Amsterdam, and many strolls along the River Siene here in Paris. Water has been the thread tying all the parts together. And for us, that is very appropriate. As Minnesotans, we are rich in clean, abundant freshwater, so much so, that we (the collective citizenry) often take it completely for granted. It’s always been there and always will be. But we know this isn’t true any longer.

The week before Earth Day Gov. Dayton designated as Water Action Week and he encouraged communities and citizens throughout the state to look at ways to better manage and protect our precious freshwater resources. We live with a frustrating dichotomy. He pointed out that “as a state, we are doing more and more to protect and improve our water quality ... spending more public and private resources to achieve this important goal.” But he also pointed out that “our water has become more polluted and less safe in many areas.” We have too many lakes, streams and rivers, as well as some of the underground aquifers, that have been contaminated with toxic chemicals. This is water we need for drinking, washing, work and recreation.

There are too many examples around this country and other parts of the world that demonstrate in dramatic ways how badly things can go when you do not pay attention to your water resources and infrastructure. Look at Flint, Michigan, for a truly horrifying lapse in regulation and responsibility. They will be paying for the damages for years to come and still must replace all the corroded lead pipes. It’s not just the water, it’s how you transport and deliver it to the public, too.

We must be vigilant concerning industries from out of state (or within) that want to transport oil in pipes along routes that cross the Mississippi and St. Croix rivers. These are critical waterways that provide drinking water for millions of people from one end of the state to the other. Other interests want to mine in an area close to the Boundary Waters, with its nearly pristine water, as well as being part of the watershed for Lake Superior. One spill or break of a pipeline or holding pond could wreak havoc in short order on these precious waters.

If you look at China, an estimated 80 percent of the water from underground wells used by farms, factories and households in the heavily populated plains is unfit for drinking or bathing because of contamination from industry and farming. Here a barrel of water is worth much more than a barrel of oil. This fact is only going to become more critical as a growing part of the planet faces serious drought. Right now Somalia, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Morocco, Colombia, Vietnam, the Middle East, South Australia, Papua New Guinea and Venezuela are all suffering from serious and long-term drought. Most recently in Venezuela, frustration with their government and desperation led to public unrest. Lack of water has meant the rivers are not high enough to keep their hydropower going. Right here in the U.S. the drought in Arizona and New Mexico continues unabated.

For those of us who do have water, there is an obligation to manage it wisely, to think about its preservation in a pure, drinkable condition. The governor has asked to test our wells (if we have them), and to put pressure on our elected officials to support initiatives and investments to improve our state’s aging water infrastructure, as well as other clean water legislation. He encourages us to teach our kids about the importance of water in our lives. After all, they will inherit the problems we fail to solve. We can all improve our water conservation by fixing leaking pipes or faucets, collecting rain water from our roofs to use in watering our gardens, and using less (or no) fertilizers on our lawns.

Living in rural Minnesota it is easy to not feel the pressure or concern about other water resources, but what happens in one part of our country or the world, ultimately will affect us all. Water is life. Love it as you love life.


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