by Darrel Crain, D.C.
Water, water, everywhere?
A fish out of water and a human without water are not so very different. A fish can survive outside water for a few minutes, while a human being can last only a matter of days without fresh drinking water. Our need for water is more immediate than our need for food, because we can live for thirty days or more without eating. Only air is more critical to short term survival than water.
“Without water anyone will run into problems pretty quickly. Their blood volume will shrink and their water and electrolyte balance will be upset. Eventually the body will just go into shock,” says Professor Martha Stipanuk of Cornell University, quoted in the Guardian newspaper.
We must not forget that we never get any “new” water on planet Earth, we earthlings drink and swim in the same stuff over and over. Humans are said to be about 65 percent water; yes, the very same water that has percolated through numerous creatures, including dinosaurs and dogs, bugs and birds, popes and pirates. The very same water has floated over the deserts of the world, and fallen on rainforests, mountaintops and oceans; it has flowed downstream in creeks and rivers both fast and slow for an incomprehensibly long time, always running back to the sea.
Most of the water on our planet is saltwater, about 97 percent. That leaves only 3 percent left as freshwater, two-thirds of which is currently frozen solid in glaciers and ice fields (global heating notwithstanding). This means only about 1 percent of all the water on the planet is left to meet the needs of every single living plant and animal on the face of the earth, including the humans.
Humans require about two and a half quarts of water per day, although the average person in the United States is said to use 125 gallons daily. The average American household uses 107,000 gallons of water per year, and only two percent of the homes in the U.S. go without running water.
In order to quench human water needs, ever-greater portions of river water are diverted to cities and groundwater is being pumped like there is no tomorrow. Within the last hundred years human activity has been using up the earth’s stores of underground water much faster than it can possibly be regenerated. About 340 billion gallons of water are used every single day in the U.S. for irrigation, agriculture, industry, fire fighting, street cleaning; virtually every need we have requires water at some point.
An African proverb reminds us, “Filthy water cannot be washed.” The earth has a remarkable natural filtration process, but even this marvelous recycling system is incapable of breaking down man-made toxins, so much of it remains in the water.
Water has an extraordinary ability to attract and carry traces of absolutely everything it finds in the environment. In water can be found microbes of every description, industrial and power plant pollutants, pesticides and herbicides, toxic cocktails leaching out of landfills, and 75,000 or so synthetic chemicals, including antibiotics and personal care products, just to name a few.
Fish are exquisitely sensitive to waterborne toxins, and this sensitivity is now being harnessed to help us monitor our water. Bluegill fish are now helping us assess our water safety by acting as “biomonitors” that provide instantaneous feedback about water quality as it is released from municipal treatment plants. Discharge water is continuously pumped through special fish tanks that register changes in the fishes’ breathing, heart rate, swimming patterns and (I am not making this up) coughing.
Brigades of bluegills have so far detected at least 30 toxic chemicals including cyanide, heavy metals, pesticides and petroleum products. In New York a bluegill biomonitor system reportedly detected a diesel spill in the water supply two hours before standard electronic devices registered the problem.
Ironically, municipal water as it comes out of the average kitchen tap would probably kill the bluegills straight off because of leftover disinfectant chemicals. To solve this minor problem, the lucky test fish get water that has already been de-chlorinated. Chlorine was first used in the United States to kill bacteria in city water in 1908 and is considered one of the great advances in public health. Unfortunately, chlorine’s toxic action against microbes negatively affects every living organism it contacts on some level.
Alternatives to chlorination, such as chloramines, are also being used, but the leftover toxic compounds are reportedly even worse. Now in a distinct class of toxins all their own, disinfection byproducts (DBPs) such as chlorine, chloramine and the others are being investigated for their relationship to developmental disorders and cancer.
What about well water? It is estimated that 48 million people in the U.S. obtain their drinking water from private or household wells. If you get your water from a well, you are basically on your own when it comes to ensuring your water quality.
Groundwater is susceptible to pollutants that are carried down through the soil with contaminated surface water. Pesticides, fertilizers, road salt, toxic runoff from mining sites, used motor oil recklessly dumped on the ground, septic tank seepage and toxic chemicals from underground storage tanks are included on the list of possible contaminants for water wells. Naturally, a prudent course is to periodically test the water from your well.
What happens if you find a problem? Investing in a water filtration system can be a wise choice regardless of the water’s source. Which system is best for a given circumstance? There is no simple answer. Wise water consumers will jump in with both feet and immerse themselves in a personal quest to learn how to supply the whole family with pure drinking water.
The long history of supplying civilization with safe water is rich with passionate and lively debate that continues to this day. Over the millennia serious problems have been overlooked from time to time, mistakes have been made. Who can forget the lead pipe system of water delivery in Ancient Rome that supplied a persistent dose of lead to the city?s inhabitants? I?m guessing that the water experts of the day assured the citizens that a little lead in the water was harmless.
Out here in the West where imported water is a fact of life we have a saying, “Water flows uphill towards money.” Ultimately, the quality of our water depends on the quality of the soil that grows our food and the quality of the air we breathe. This can be summed up in two words, wise stewardship.
“Man ‘despite his artistic pretensions, his sophistication, and his many accomplishments’ owes his existence to a six inch layer of topsoil and the fact that it rains,” according to an anonymous author.
When it comes to the health of our water supply, fish are the new canaries in coalmine. However, I do not suggest we all bring home a couple of bluegills to be biomonitors for our drinking water. In essence we are all bluegills, we are every one of us a biomonitor in need of pure water to keep us healthy.
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Dr. Darrel Crain practices chiropractic in Alpine, California.
Some of his other articles published on Planet Chiropractic include…
The doctor of the future & Thomas Edisons prediction
Pre-Medicine for Pre-Problems – a Chiropractic Report
Cocaine in the water
This is a farily broad search but here are some related topics on Drinking+Water
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