Water Quotations


Recycling Program University of St. Thomas, Minnesota USA

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Quotations on Water

Be praised, My Lord, through Sister Water; she is very useful, and humble, and precious, and pure.

-Francis of Assisi (1181-1226) Canticle of the Sun circa 1225

God said, "Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth in the open expanse of sky." God created the large sea creatures, and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarmed, after their kind, and every winged bird after its kind. God saw that it was good. God blessed them, saying, "Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.

-Genesis 1:20-23 from the World English translation of the Bible

Man is not an aquatic animal, but from the time we stand in youthful wonder beside a Spring brook till we sit in old age and watch the endless roll of the sea, we feel a strong kinship with the waters of this world.

-Hal Borland (1900-1978), Sundial of the Seasons, 1964 

Water and air, the two essential fluids on which all life depends, have become global garbage cans.

-Jacques Cousteau (1910-1997)

Water is fundamental for life and health. The human right to water is indispensable for leading a healthy life in human dignity. It is a pre-requisite to the realization of all other human rights.

-The United Nations Committee on Economic, Cultural and Social Rights
Environment News Service, 27 Nov 02 

Water is the basis of life and the blue arteries of the earth! Everything in the non-marine environment depends on freshwater to survive.

-Sandra Postel, “Sandra Postel, Global Water Policy Project,” 
Grist Magazine
 26 Apr 04

Why did the old Persians hold the sea holy? Why did the Greeks give it a separate deity, and own brother of Jove? Surely all this is not without meaning. And still deeper the meaning of that story of Narcissus, who because he could not grasp the tormenting, mild image he saw in the fountain, plunged into it and was drowned. But that same image, we ourselves see in all rivers and oceans. It is the image of the ungraspable phantom of life; and this is the key to it all.

-Herman Melville (1819–1891), Moby-Dick, 1851 ch 1

Before enlightenment, Chop wood
Carry water.
After enlightenment, Chop wood
Carry water. 

-Zen saying

The quality of water and the quality of life in all its infinite forms are critical parts of the overall, ongoing health of this planet of ours, not just here in the Amazon, but everywhere... The hardest part of any big project is to begin. We have begun. We are underway. We have a passion. We want to make a difference.

-Sir Peter Blake (1948-2001)
last journal entry before being murdered by pirates on the Amazon River

We're all downstream.

-Ecologist's motto adopted by Margaret & Jim Drescher,
Windhorse Farm, Nova Scotia

Take almost any path you please, and ten to one it carries you down in a dale, and leaves you there by a pool in the stream. There is magic in it. Let the most absent-minded of men be plunged in his deepest reveries--stand that man on his legs, set his feet a-going, and he will infallibly lead you to water, if water there be in all that region. Should you ever be athirst in the great American desert, try this experiment, if your caravan happen to be supplied with a metaphysical professor. Yes, as every one knows, meditation and water are wedded forever.

-Herman Melville (1819-1891), Moby Dick, 1851  

There is nothing softer and weaker than water,
And yet there is nothing better for attacking hard and strong things.
For this reason there is no substitute for it.

-Lao-Tzu (c. B.C. 550)  

Water is also one of the four elements, the most beautiful of God's creations. It is both wet and cold, heavy, and with a tendency to descend, and flows with great readiness. It is this the Holy Scripture has in view when it says, "And the darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters." Water, then, is the most beautiful element and rich in usefulness, and purifies from all filth, and not only from the filth of the body but from that of the soul, if it should have received the grace of the Spirit.

-John of Damascus (679?-749) Exposition of the Orthodox Faith  

A generous person will be enriched,
and one who gives water will get water.

-Proverbs 11:25 NRSV Bible 

There is no water in oxygen, no water in hydrogen: it comes bubbling fresh from the imagination of the living God, rushing from under the great white throne of the glacier. The very thought of it makes one gasp with an elemental joy no metaphysician can analyse. The water itself, that dances, and sings, and slakes the wonderful thirst--symbol and picture of that draught for which the woman of Samaria made her prayer to Jesus--this lovely thing itself, whose very wetness is a delight to every inch of the human body in its embrace--this live thing which, if I might, I would have running through my room, yea, babbling along my table--this water is its own self its own truth, and is therein a truth of God.

-George Macdonald (1824-1905), "The Truth,"  
Unspoken Sermons
, Third Series

Water, like religion and ideology, has the power to move millions of people. Since the very birth of human civilization, people have moved to settle close to it. People move when there is too little of it. People move when there is too much of it. People journey down it. People write, sing and dance about it. People fight over it. And all people, everywhere and every day, need it.

-Mikhail Gorbachev, President of Green Cross International
quoted in Peter Swanson's Water: The Drop of Life, 2001

From earliest times, water has always been acknowledged as a primary human good and an indispensable natural resource. Around the great rivers of the world, like the Mississippi, great cultures have developed, while over the course of the centuries the prosperity of countless societies has been linked to these waterways. Today, however, the great fluvial systems of every continent are exposed to serious threats, often as a result of man’s activity and decisions. Concern for the fate of the great rivers of the earth must lead us to reflect soberly on the model of development which our society is pursuing. A purely economic and technological understanding of progress, to the extent that it fails to acknowledge its intrinsic limitations and to take into consideration the integral good of humanity, will inevitably provoke negative consequences for individuals, peoples and creation itself.

-Pope Benedict XVI, letter to Orthodox patriarch of Constantinople
Bartholomew I, on the occasion of the 
Eighth International Symposium on Religion, Science and the Environment: "Restoring Balance: The Great Mississippi River." 12 Oct 09 

He set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved.
You covered it with the deep as with a garment; the waters stood above the mountains.
But at your rebuke the waters fled, at the sound of your thunder they took to flight;
they flowed over the mountains, they went down into the valleys,
to the place you assigned for them.
You set a boundary they cannot cross; never again will they cover the earth.
He makes springs pour water into the ravines; it flows between the mountains.
They give water to all the beasts of the field; the wild donkeys quench their thirst.
The birds of the air nest by the waters; they sing among the branches.
He waters the mountains from his upper chambers; the earth is satisfied by the fruit of his work.

-Psalm 104:5-13 from the New International Version of the Bible  

From birth, man carries the weight of gravity on his shoulders. He is bolted to earth. But man has only to sink beneath the surface and he is free.

-Jacques Cousteau (1910-1997), Time, 28 March 1960  

Only 2.5% of the world's water is not salty, and two-thirds of that is trapped in the icecaps and glaciers. Of what is left, about 20% is in remote areas and most of the rest comes at the wrong time and in the wrong place, as with monsoons and floods. The amount of fresh water available for human use is less than 0.08% of all the water on the planet. About 70% of the fresh water is already used for agriculture, and the report says the demands of industry and energy will grow rapidly. The World Water Council report estimates that in the next two decades the use of water by humans will increase by about 40%, and that 17% more water than is available will be needed to grow the world's food… The commission concludes that "only rapid and imaginative institutional and technological innovation can avoid the crisis".

-BBC News, "Water arithmetic 'doesn't add up'," 13 Mar 2000  

And Allah has created from water every living creature: so of them is that which walks upon its belly, and of them is that which walks upon two feet, and of them is that which walks upon four; Allah creates what He pleases; surely Allah has power over all things.

-Qur'an 24.45, M. H. Shakir's translation  

Every human should have the idea of taking care of the environment, of nature, of water. So using too much or wasting water should have some kind of feeling or sense of concern. Some sort of responsibility and with that, a sense of discipline.

-The 14th Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso
quoted in Peter Swanson's Water: The Drop of Life, 2001

He loads the clouds with moisture;
he scatters his lightning through them.
At his direction they swirl around
over the face of the whole earth
to do whatever he commands them.
He brings the clouds to punish men,
or to water his earth and show his love.

Elihu in Job 37:11-13 NIV Bible

The Romans realized, as have every civilized people since, that living in cities is impossible if the water supply is not reliably clean and fresh.

-Frank & Francis Chapelle,  
The Hidden Sea: Ground Water, Springs and Wells
, 1997

Water demand is increasing three times as fast as the world's population growth rate, and poverty is the single most important factor related to meeting that demand, said officials at the 3rd World Water Forum, which wound up eight days of meetings on Sunday… Some 1.2 billion people lack a safe water supply and 2.4 billion live without secure sanitation, according to Water Forum official figures. At least five million people die yearly from water related diseases, including 2.2 million children under the age of five. An estimated one half of people in developing countries are suffering from diseases caused either directly by infection through the consumption of contaminated water or food, or indirectly by disease carrying organisms, such as mosquitoes, that breed in water.

-Environment News Service
“100 New Commitments Pour in as Water Forum Closes,” 24 Mar 03

An estimated 1.1 billion people worldwide lack clean drinking water and 2.4 billion lack access to basic sanitation. Targets adopted by the United Nations in September 2000 aim to halve these figures by 2015; but projections suggest those goals, which would require more than 100,000 people every day to be connected to clean water supplies, will not be met.

-Patricia Brett, “Water supply bogs down in complexity,” 
International Herald Tribune, 20 Aug 05

Multinational companies now run water systems for 7 per cent of the world's population, and analysts say that figure could grow to 17 per cent by 2015. Private water management is estimated to be a $200 billion business, and the World Bank, which has encouraged governments to sell off their utilities to reduce public debt, projects it could be worth $1 trillion by 2021. The potential for profits is staggering: in May 2000 Fortune magazine predicted that water is about to become 'one of the world's great business opportunities', and that 'it promises to be to the 21st century what oil was to the 20th'.

-John Louma, “Water Thieves," The Ecologist, Mar 04

Developing world cities with private water-management companies have been plagued by lapses in service, soaring costs, corruption and worse. In Manila, where the water system is controlled by Suez, San Francisco-based Bechtel and the prominent Ayala family, water is only reliably available for a few hours a day, and rate increases have been so severe that the poorest families must choose each month between paying for water and two days' worth of food. In 2001 the government of Ghana agreed to privatise local water systems as a condition for an IMF loan. To attract investors, the government doubled water rates, setting off protests in a country where the average annual income is less than $400 a year and the water bill (for those fortunate enough to have running water) can run upwards of $110. In Cochabamba, the third-largest city in Bolivia, water rates shot up by 35 per cent after a consortium led by Bechtel took over the city's water system in 1999; some residents found themselves paying 20 per cent of their income on water. An initial round of peaceful street protests led to riots in which six people were killed. Eventually, the Bolivian government voided Bechtel's contract and told the company's officials it could not guarantee their safety if they stayed in town. Privatisation has also spawned protests (and, in some cases, even dominated elections) in Paraguay, where police turned water cannons on anti-privatisation protesters, Panama, Brazil, Peru, Colombia, India, Pakistan, Hungary and South Africa.

-John Louma, “Water Thieves," The Ecologist, Mar 04

In the late 1990s a handful of conglomerates began to quietly acquire control of the world's water systems. As the value of water began to soar, multi-billion-dollar firms such as Vivendi, Suez, Enron and Bechtel scoured the world in pursuit of lucrative business opportunities. Between 1994 and 1998 there were 139 water-related deals worth an aggregate of nearly $4 billion. In a period of six months in 1999 Vivendi bought the western American water operator US Filter for $6.2 billion, and Suez purchased the east coast company United Water Resources for $1 billion. Those two transactions came right after Enron paid $2.2 billion for the British utility Wessex Water. At the same time, electronic water auctions were launched on the internet. At sites like water2water.com and waterrights.com, individuals with excess water (such as farmers with irrigation contracts) could put their water rights up for sale to the highest private bidder. As a result of all of these different deals and ventures, hundreds of millions of people worldwide now depend on transnationals (companies based thousands of miles away) for their water supplies.

-edited from Jeffrey Rothfeder's Every Drop for Sale, 2001 
quoted in The Ecologist, Mar 04

Clean water is not an expenditure of Federal funds; clean water is an investment in the future of our country.

-Bud Shuster, U.S. Representative, quoted in The Washington Post, 1/9/87 * 

Rivers are roads which move, and which carry us whither we desire to go.

-Blaise Pascal (1623-1662), “Thoughts on Mind and Style,” Pensées, 1660

But we have not used our waters well. Our major rivers are defiled by noxious debris. Pollutants from cities and industries kill the fish in our streams. Many waterways are covered with oil slicks and contain growths of algae that destroy productive life and make the water unfit for recreation. "Polluted Water—No Swimming" has become a familiar sign on too many beaches and rivers. A lake that has served many generations of men now can be destroyed by man in less than one generation.

-Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) 36th U.S. President,
Special Message to Congress, "To Renew a Nation"
8 March 1968

No one has the right to use America's rivers and America's Waterways that belong to all the people as a sewer. The banks of a river may belong to one man or one industry or one State, but the waters which flow between the banks should belong to all the people.

-Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) 36th U.S. President,
signing the 1965 Clean Water Act

Water is life.
We are the people who live by the water. 
Pray by these waters. 
Travel by the waters. 
Eat and drink from these waters. 
We are related to those who live in the water. 
To poison the waters is to show disrespect for creation. 
To honor and protect the waters is our responsibility as people of the land.

-Winona LaDuke, “Like Tributaries to a River,”
translated from Anishinaabe by Marlene Stately, 
The Winona LaDuke Reader, 2002

It is a fact that the entire Kentucky River system, which the central part of the state complacently depends upon for its future water, is deteriorating rapidly because of strip mining, because of bad farming, because of industrial and agricultural pollutants, because of urban sewage. It is deteriorating, that is to say, because almost nobody cares, or cares to know, where water comes from, so long as it keeps coming. The assumption is that people so ignorant and thoughtless and silly and greedy may simply call upon the Army Corps of Engineers in order to receive a clean and abundant supply of water from reservoirs in the mountains. A much likelier outcome is that they will be drinking an ever stronger mixture of sewage and mine acid and mud and cropspray and various other defecations of the industrial paradise.

-Wendell Berry, “The Journey’s End,” Recollected Essays 1965-1980, 1981

In a mucked up lovely river, I cast my little fly. 
I look at that river and smell it and it makes me wanna cry. 
Oh to clean our dirty planet, now there's a noble wish, 
and I'm puttin my shoulder to the wheel 
'cause I wanna catch some fish.

-Greg Brown, "Spring Wind" from Dream Café, 1992

It is really important to solve the problem of rational utilization and distribution of wate supplies. I dare say, the shortage of fresh water is the major ecological problem of this moment.

-Mikhail Gorbachev, President of Green Cross International
quoted in Peter Swanson's Water: The Drop of Life, 2001

And having thoughtlessly polluted our streams and rivers, we have seen in recent years a rapidly growing market for bottled drinking water. I am sure that some will say that a rapidly growing market for water is "good for the economy," and most of us are still affluent enough to pay the cost. Nevertheless, it is a considerable cost that we are now paying for drinkable water, which we once had in plentiful supply at little cost or none at all. And the increasing of the cost suggests that the time may come when the cost will be unaffordable.

-Wendell Berry, 
Commencement Address, Lindsey Wilson College, 
14 May 2005

The good news about fresh water is that, even after accounting for the larger volume of water that is unavailable to people from the hydrologic cycle, there is enough on a global scale to support current and anticipated populations on a sustainable basis... Three essential goals are dependable and safe supplies for people, protection and management of the environmental systems through which water moves, and efficient water use. Meeting these goals will require that fresh water not continue to be treated as a free good or as the principal means for disposing of human and industrial wastes.

-Gilbert F. White,  
The Global Possible: Resources, Development, and the New Century

Washington DC: World Resources Institute 1984

One effect of benefit-cost analysis is to give any respectable engineer or economist a means for justifying almost any kind of project the national government wants to justify… Exclusive reliance on benefit-cost analysis has been one of the greatest threats to wise decisions in water development.

- Gilbert F. White, "Unpublished paper, Columbia University, March 21, 1971,"
Geography, Resources, and Environment: Selected Writings of Gilbert F. White
Volume 1 1986

With respect to water, Canadians and Americans suffer from the same disease: We say that it is priceless, but act as if it were absurdly cheap. Most North Americans pay far less for their water than even just the cost of supplying it, cleaning it up and returning it to the environment. Yet subsidizing water use is economically and ecologically disastrous. In fact, heavy subsidization of water in the US is the cause of any water "shortages" that may exist there.

-Editorial, The Toronto Globe and Mail, 23 May 1998  

My soul is full of longing
For the secret of the Sea,
And the heart of the great ocean
Sends a thrilling pulse through me.

-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882), The Secret of the Sea  

There is, one knows not what sweet mystery about this sea, whose gently awful stirrings seems to speak of some hidden soul beneath; like those fabled undulations of the Ephesian sod over the buried Evangelist St. John. And meet it is, that over these sea-pastures, wide-rolling watery prairies and Potters’ Fields of all four continents, the waves should rise and fall, and ebb and flow unceasingly; for here, millions of mixed shades and shadows, drowned dreams, somnambulisms, reveries; all that we call lives and souls, lie dreaming, dreaming, still; tossing like slumberers in their beds; the ever-rolling waves but made so by their restlessness.

-Herman Melville (1819–1891), Moby-Dick, 1851, ch 111  

Modern man has no real “value” for the ocean. All he has is the most crass form of egoist, pragmatic value for it. He treats it as a “thing” in the worst possible sense, to exploit it for the “good” of man. The man who believes things are there only by chance cannot give things a real value. But for the Christian the value of a thing is not in itself autonomously, but because God made it.

-Francis A. Schaeffer (1912-1984), Pollution and the Death of Man, 1970  

Here in the Great Lakes region, a fourth year in a row of declining water levels has caused millions of dollars in losses for shipping companies, marinas and other businesses and prompted further restrictions on future water withdrawals for expanding suburbs. "A lot of people just can't believe that we may be running out of water, living this close to the Great Lakes," said Sarah Nerenberg, a water engineer with the Northeastern Illinois Planning Commission, which conducted the study on shortages.

-Timothy Egan, "Near Vast Bodies of Water, Land Lies Parched,"
The New York Times, 12 Aug 2001

Perhaps one of the most meaningful ways to sense the impact of the environmental crisis is to confront the question which is always asked about Lake Erie: how can we restore it? I believe the only valid answer is that no one knows. For it should be clear that even if overnight all of the pollutants now pouring into Lake Erie were stopped, there would still remain the problem of the accumulated mass of pollutants in the lake bottom. To my knowledge, no one has proposed a means of solving that problem which is even remotely feasible. It is entirely likely, I believe, that practically speaking Lake Erie will never be returned to anything approximating the condition it was in, say, twenty-five to fifty years ago.

-Barry Commoner, The Closing Circle, 1971  

The Black Sea is spiralling into decline as a result of chronic overfishing, high levels of pollution and the devastating impacts of alien species, an international team of scientists has warned… The findings have come from a regional team who are members of the Global International Waters Assessment (GIWA), an initiative led by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)… The environment, wildlife and people linked with the Black Sea are also under threat from large discharges of raw sewage, damaging levels of coastal erosion and the suffocating impacts of dumping of sludges and muds dredged from ports, the GIWA scientists said… "We have known for some time that the Black Sea, a water system of global importance, has been suffering, but these results bring into sharp focus just how damaged it is and the risks to the millions of people who depend upon it for food and livelihoods. The findings are a warning to the world that we cannot take the health of our water systems for granted."

-Environment News Service
International Team Combats Black Sea Decline, 10 Oct 2001

All earth’s full rivers can not fill
The sea that drinking thirsteth still

-Christina Georgina Rossetti (1830–1894), By the Sea  

Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me. By day the LORD directs his love, at night his song is with me

-Psalm 42:7-8 from the New International Version of the Bible  

The winds, the sea, and the moving tides are what they are. If there is wonder and beauty and majesty in them, science will discover these qualities. If they are not there, science cannot create them. If there is poetry in my book about the sea, it is not because I deliberately put it there, but because no one could write truthfully about the sea and leave out the poetry.

…Rachel Carson (1907-1964), 1952 Acceptance speech 
for the National Book Award for Nonfiction for The Sea Around Us
cited in Lost Woods : The Discovered Writing of Rachel Carson
ed Linda Lear, 1999 

The escalating level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is making the world's oceans more acidic, government and independent scientists say. They warn that, by the end of the century, the trend could decimate coral reefs and creatures that underpin the sea's food web. Although scientists and some politicians have just begun to focus on the question of ocean acidification, they describe it as one of the most pressing environmental threats facing Earth.

-Juliet Eilperin, “Growing Acidity of Oceans May Kill Corals,” 
Washington Post
, 5 July 2006

The number of oxygen-starved “dead zones" in the world's seas and oceans has risen more than a third in the past two years because of fertilizer, sewage, animal waste, and fossil-fuel burning, United Nations specialists said yesterday. Their number has jumped to about 200, according to new estimates released by UN marine specialists meeting in Beijing. In 2004, UN specialists put the estimate at 149 globally. The damage is caused by explosive blooms of tiny plants known as phytoplankton, which die and sink to the bottom, then are eaten by bacteria, which use up the oxygen in the water. Those blooms are triggered by too many nutrients -- particularly phosphorous and nitrogen.

Associated Press, “UN reports increasing 'dead zones' in oceans,” 
cited in The Boston Globe, 20 Oct 06

The face of the water, in time, became a wonderful book- a book that was a dead language to the uneducated passenger, but which told its mind to me without reserve, delivering its most cherished secrets as clearly as if it uttered them with a voice. And it was not a book to be read once and thrown aside, for it had a new story to tell every day.

-Mark Twain a.k.a. Samuel Langhorne Clemens (1835-1910)  

Why is almost every robust healthy boy with a robust healthy soul in him, at some time or other crazy to go to sea? Why upon your first voyage as a passenger, did you yourself feel such a mystical vibration, when first told that you and your ship were now out of sight of land? Why did the old Persians hold the sea holy? Why did the Greeks give it a separate deity, and own brother of Jove? Surely all this is not without meaning. And still deeper the meaning of that story of Narcissus, who because he could not grasp the tormenting, mild image he saw in the fountain, plunged into it and was drowned. But that same image, we ourselves see in all rivers and oceans. It is the image of the ungraspable phantom of life; and this is the key to it all.

-Herman Melville (1819-1891), Moby Dick, 1851

We used to think that energy and water would be the critical issues for the next century. Now we think water will be the critical issue.

-Mostafa Tolba of Egypt,
former head of the United Nations Environment Program

By 2015, according to estimates from the United Nations and the United States government, at least 40 percent of the world's population, or about three billion people, will live in countries where it is difficult or impossible to get enough water to satisfy basic needs. "The signs of unsustainability are widespread and spreading," said Sandra Postel, director of the Global Water Policy Project in Amherst, Mass. "If we're to have any hope of satisfying the food and water needs of the world's people in the years ahead, we will need a fundamental shift in how we use and manage water." 

- Douglas Jehl, “In Race to Tap the Euphrates, the Upper Hand Is Upstream,”The New York Times, 25 Aug 02

I understood when I was just a child that without water, everything dies. I didn't understand until much later that no one "owns" water. It might rise on your property, but it just passes through. You can use it, and abuse it, but it is not yours to own. It is part of the global commons, not "property" but part of our life support system.

-Marq de Villiers, Water, 2000  

A river seems a magic thing. A magic, moving, living part of the very earth itself.

-Laura Gilpin, The Rio Grande, 1949  

All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full. To the place the streams come from, there they return again.

-Ecclesiastes 1:7 from New International Version of The Bible  

When we talk of flood control, we usually think of dams and deeper river channels, to impound the waters or hurry their run-off. Yet neither is the ultimate solution, simply because floods are caused by the flow of water downhill. If the hills are wooded, that flow is checked. If there is a swamp at the foot of the hills, the swamp sponges up most of the excess water, restores some of it to the underground water supply and feeds the remainder slowly into the streams. Strip the hills, drain the boglands, and you create flood conditions inevitably. Yet that is what we have been doing for years.

-Hal Borland (1900-1978), Sundial of the Seasons, 1964  

An ecologist must either harden his shell and make believe that the consequences of science are none of his business, or he must be the doctor who sees the marks of death in a community that believes itself well and does not want to be told otherwise. The government tells us we need flood control and comes to straighten the creek in our pasture. The engineer on the job tells us the creek is now able to carry off more flood water, but in the process we have lost our old willows where the owl hooted on a winter night and under which the cows switched flies in the noon shade. We lost the little marshy spot where our fringed gentians bloomed. Hydrologists have demonstrated that the meanderings of a creek are a necessary part of the hydrologic functioning. The flood plain belongs to the river. The ecologist sees clearly that for similar reasons we can get along with less channel improvement on Round River.

-Aldo Leopold (1886-1948), A Sand County Almanac, 1948  

The National Academy of Sciences concluded on Wednesday that federal agencies must take decisive action to restore the Missouri River's natural flow to prevent further damage to the river and its wildlife… The congressionally chartered National Academy of Sciences is an independent organization that guides the government on scientific matters. The corps and the Environmental Protection Agency requested the new study. The report describes dramatic changes in the river that resulted from dams and deepened channels ordered by Congress for navigation and flood control. The river that Meriwether Lewis and William Clark explored from 1804 to 1806 has been separated from its flood plain, shortened by more than 200 miles and deprived of the sediment flow that gave it the nickname "Big Muddy." Of 67 species of fish native to the river, 51 are rare, uncommon and declining in numbers, and one - the pallid sturgeon - is classified as an endangered species, the report said.

-Bill Lambrecht, "Scientists say quick action is needed to save the Missouri"
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 9 Jan 2002

You may talk o' gin and beer
When you're quartered safe out 'ere, 
An' you're sent to penny-fights an' Aldershot it; 
But when it comes to slaughter 
You will do your work on water, 
An' you'll lick the bloomin' boots of 'im that's got it.

-Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936), Gungha Din

If he withholds the waters, they dry up;
if he sends them out, they overwhelm the land.

-Job in Job 12:15 NRSV Bible

The once-mighty Rio Grande is so tapped out it doesn't even reach the Gulf of Mexico anymore. Nine years of drought, a proliferation of choking river weeds and the drawing off of water by farms and municipalities have taken their toll on the nation's second-longest river, which serves as the boundary between Mexico and the United States. Once a navigable waterway that swelled under bridges and made fertile an otherwise dry coastal plain, the river becomes a mere trickle before it gets to the Gulf of Mexico, disappearing about 300 feet short of its destination in a big expanse of sand.

-The Associated Press quoted in the Lawrence Journal World
"Along border, Rio not so Grande" 28 Jun 01

Judah mourns
and her gates languish;
they lie in gloom on the ground,
and the cry of Jerusalem goes up.
Her nobles send their servants for water;
they come to the cisterns,
they find no water,
they return with their vessels empty.
They are ashamed and dismayed
and cover their heads,
because the ground is cracked.
Because there has been no rain on the land
the farmers are dismayed;
they cover their heads.
Even the doe in the field forsakes her newborn fawn
because there is no grass.
The wild asses stand on the bare heights,
they pant for air like jackals;
their eyes fail
because there is no herbage.

-Jeremiah 14:2-6 NRSV Bible

That the Rio Grande is no longer strong enough to reach the sea is just another example of the crisis that threatens the river and the international region that depends on it. Years of drought have left the area parched. A water war between farmers on both sides of the border has escalated into an international standoff. Demand for water is increasing in an area that has historically ranked among the poorest in the nation but is now trying to capitalize on growing trade with Mexico. Population is exploding on both sides of the border as new industries have been established in the past decade. "For the longest period of time, the Rio Grande Valley has had a water policy in which we hope and pray for a moderate-sized hurricane every 8 to 10 years that would bypass the Valley, land in the watershed and dump in the reservoir," said Judge Gilberto Hinojosa of Cameron County, the highest elected official in the county, which includes Brownsville. "That isn't a water policy."

-Jim Yardley, "Water Rights War Rages on Faltering Rio Grande,"
New York Times, 19 Apr 2002

Uncle Sam took up the challenge in the year of '33
For the farmer and the factory and all of you and me.
He said, "Roll along Columbia. You can ramble to the sea,
But river while you're ramblin' you can do some work for me."

-Woody Guthrie (1912-1967) from his song The Grand Coulee Dam  

More than 5,500 large dams impede America's running waters, leaving less than 2 percent of the country's 3.1 million miles of rivers and streams flowing free. In the wake of these river alterations trails a record list of endangered aquatic species. Two of every three freshwater mussel species are heading for extinction, or are already there; half of all crayfish species are imperiled; more than a third of the country's freshwater fish are in trouble -- 17 of them missing outright.

-William Stolzenburg, "How Much Water Does a River Need?"
in Nature Conservancy, March/April, 1999

We have a lot of ways to meet our energy needs. These salmon only have one river forever. If we do not support them, they will go extinct.

-Todd True, quoted in "Agency sued over putting hydropower ahead of fish"
Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 4 May 2001

The number of people displaced by dams is estimated at between 40m and 80m, most of them in China and India. The costs of dams were on average 50% above their original estimate. Some designed to reduce flooding made it worse, and there were many unexpected environmental disadvantages, including the extinction of fish and bird species. Half the world's wetlands had been lost because of dams.

-Paul Brown, The Guardian Observer,
news report on the World Commission on Dams, 16 Nov 2000

It is time to respect the lives of Native and all peoples who do not support the continued devastation caused by the construction of huge power plants on the rivers that are the lifeblood of the land.

-Patrick Spears, president of Inter-Tribal Council on Utility Policy 
in Fort Pierre, South Dakota
from speech given at University of St. Thomas, 15 April 2000

Only beavers should be allowed to build dams on our territory.

-anonymous Cree elder in the James Bay community of Whapmagoostui  

But the mountain falls and crumbles away,
and the rock is removed from its place;  
the waters wear away the stones;
the torrents wash away the soil of the earth;
so you destroy the hope of mortals.

-Job 14:18-19 from the NRSV Bible

A nation that fails to plan intelligently for the development and protection of its precious waters will be condemned to wither because of its shortsightedness. The hard lessons of history are clear, written on the deserted sands and ruins of once proud civilizations.

-Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) 36th President of the United States,
Letter to the President of the Senate and to the Speaker of the House
Transmitting an Assessment of the Nation's Water Resources
, 18 Nov 1968

Roughly 12 million people, one out of eight Mexicans, the poorest of the poor, have no easy access to drinking water at all. Those who can afford it pay dearly to have it trucked to their homes. Those without the money have to drink what they can find. Bad water kills thousands every year. "There is no place in this country, with the exception of maybe one or two cities, like Monterrey, where you can drink the water without worrying you're going to get sick," said Victor Lichtinger, the environmental minister. The national water commissioner, Cristóbal Jaime Jaquez, says 73 percent of Mexico's water, underground and above, is contaminated and a danger to public health. Almost every river and stream in the nation is polluted — 93 percent of them, the government says.

-Tim Weiner, "Mexico Grows Parched, With Pollution and Politics,"
The NY Times, 14 April 2001

Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world's great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs. I am haunted by waters.

-Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It, 1989  

I do not know much about gods; but I think that the river
Is a strong brown god - sullen, untamed and intractable
Patient to some degree, at first recognized as a frontier;
Useful, untrustworthy as a conveuor of commerce;
Then only a problem confronting the builder of bridges.
The problem once solved, the brown god is almost forgotten
By the dwellers in cities - ever, however, implacable,
Keeping his seasons and rages, destroyer, reminder
Of what men choose to forget. Unhonoured, unpropitiated
By worshippers of the machine.

-T. S. Eliot (1888–1965) from Four Quartets  

Smooth runs the water where the brook is deep.

-William Shakespeare (1564-1616), Henry VI, part II  

One of the signs of the imminent Apocalypse is the "bitterness of all waters," and anyone traveling through eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union and its satellites—everywhere that the command economy operated, with its callous disregard for anything but narrow-focused abstract principle—could be forgiven for thinking that the Apocalypse was no longer imminent but in full cry. There's hardly a river, stream, or brook that isn't contaminated with the runoff from human misuse, whether industrial effluents, agricultural pesticides and herbicides, or worse. (The "worse" could be bacterial contamination—the river as disease vector—or the dumping of radioactive wastes.)

-Marq de Villiers, Water, 2000  

The third angel sounded his trumpet, and a great star, blazing like a torch, fell from the sky on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water—the name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters turned bitter, and many people died from the waters that had become bitter.

-John the Apostle (c. A.D. 100) in the Book of Revelation 8:10-11
from the NIV Bible 

The world health agency associates 3.4 million deaths each year with inadequate water and sanitation. Diseases such as malaria, cholera, dysentery, schistosomiasis, infectious hepatitis and diarrhoea are the killers. Dr. Brundtland estimates that one third of the global burden of disease, in all age groups, can be attributed to environmental risk factors. Over 40 percent of this burden falls on children under five years of age, even though they make up only about 10 percent of the world's population.

-“Water for Health Declared a Human Right,” 
Environment News Service
, 4 Dec 02

Bangladesh is in the midst of what the World Health Organization calls the "largest mass poisoning of a population in history." Tens of thousands of Bangladeshis show the outward signs of the same decline. Some 35 million are drinking arsenic-contaminated water, the poison accumulating within them day by day, sip by sip. This calamity is accompanied by paradox. For two decades, the government, along with UNICEF and various aid groups, desperately worked to wean the nation from pond water, often an incubator for lethal disease. People were instead urged to install tube wells, tapping into the plentiful supply of underground aquifers. Regrettably, no one had tested these subterranean sources for arsenic… Two years ago, the water was tested. The arsenic concentration measured .760 milligrams per liter, 15 times the amount considered safe by Bangladesh standards and 76 times the limit set by the World Health Organization. Arsenic, a speedy killer in high doses, is a sluggish and fickle assailant in low ones. The poison requires 2 to 10 years or more to work its damage and it affects different people in different ways - and some, seemingly, not at all.

-Barry Bearak, “Bangladeshis Sipping Arsenic as Plan for Safe Water Stalls,” 
The New York Times 14 Jul 02

The U.S. water supply is laced with residues of hundreds of medicinal and household chemicals, compounds that originate not at a Dow Chemical drainage pipe but from our own personal plumbing. The contaminants come from our bladders and bowels, our bathtub drains and kitchen sinks. As much as 90 percent of anything the doctor orders you to swallow passes out of your body and into your toilet. Wastes from farm animals are never treated -- and loaded with antibiotics and fertility hormones. As chemists make new concoctions, the water supply takes the hit.

-Mark D. Uehling, "Free drugs from your faucet," Salon 25 Oct 2001  

So much water is pumped in and out of underground aquifers in the Los Angeles area that much of the landscape rises and falls more than 4 inches each year… The immense annual groundswell caused by pumping practices is 100 times larger than normal seismic fluctuations. It is particularly notable in northern parts of Orange County, where 75% of all the water used is pumped from the ground. The ground movement overshadows the more subtle tectonic forces at work along Southern California's countless thrust faults, the researchers said. "It is actually quite astonishing," said geophysicist Gerald Bawden at the U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park, who led the study team. "The magnitude and extent of these motions are a product of Los Angeles' great thirst for water; they are unprecedented, and have not been observed elsewhere in the world." The new data--representing the first time the seasonal cycle has been measured--are reported today in the journal Nature. From fall to early spring, officials pump water into underground aquifers for storage, causing the land to rise. In summer months, these unseen reservoirs slowly collapse, systematically drained to water lawns, wash cars, top off swimming pools and slake the thirst of the area's 14 million residents. Overall, the level of the water table sinks lower each year, leaving a permanent imprint on the land.

- Robert Lee Hotz and Kenneth Reich, "Aquifer Levels May Lift, Lower L.A. Land,"
Los Angeles Times, 23 Aug 2001

The trouble with water—and there is trouble with water—is that they're not making any more of it. They're not making any less, mind, but no more either. There is the same amount of water in the planet now as there was in prehistoric times. People, however, they're making more of—many more, far more than is ecologically sensible—and all those people are utterly dependent on water for their lives (humans consist mostly of water), for their livelihoods, their food, and increasingly, their industry. Humans can live for a month without food but will die in less than a week without water. Humans consume water, discard it, poison it, waste it, and restlessly change the hydrological cycles, indifferent to the consequences: too many people, too little water, water in the wrong places and in the wrong amounts.

-Marq de Villiers, Water, 2000  

It is an extraordinary fact that the deliberate introduction of poisons into a reservoir is becoming a fairly common practice. The purpose is usually to promote recreational uses, even though the water must be treated at some expense to make it fit for its intended use as drinking water. When sportsmen of an area want to "improve" fishing in a reservoir, they prevail on authorities to dump quantities of poison into it to kill the undesired fish, which are then replaced with hatchery fish more suited to the sportsmen's taste. The procedure has a strange Alice-in-Wonderland quality. The reservoir was created as a public water supply, yet the community, probably unconsulted about the sportsmen's project, is forced either to drink water containing poisonous residues or to pay our tax money for treatment of the water to remove the poisons - treatments that are by no means foolproof.

-Rachel Carson (1907-1964), "Surface Waters and Underground Seas," 
Silent Spring, 1962

I have always been a big advocate of tap water—not because I think it harmless but because the idea of purchasing water extracted from some remote watershed and then hauled halfway round the world bothers me. Drinking bottled water relieves people of their concern about ecological threats to the river they live by or to the basins of groundwater they live over. It's the same kind of thinking that leads some to the complacent conclusion that if things on earth get bad enough, well, we'll just blast off to a space station somewhere else.

-Sandra Steingraber, Having Faith, 2001  

Besides, the sense of safety offered by bottled water is a mirage. It turns out that breathing, not drinking, constitutes our main route of exposure to volatile pollutants in tap water, such as solvents, pesticides, and byproducts of water chlorination. As soon as the toilet is flushed or the faucet turned on—or the bathtub, the shower, the humidifier, the washing machine—these contaminants leave the water and enter the air. A recent study shows that the most efficient way of exposing yourself to chemical contaminants in tap water is to turn on a dishwasher. (This surprises you?) Drink a bottle of French water and then step into the shower for ten minutes and you've just received the exposure equivalent of drinking a half gallon of tap water. We enjoy the most intimate of relationships with our public drinking water, whether we want to or not.

-Sandra Steingraber, Having Faith, 2001  

The survey of more than 100 waterways downstream from treatment plants and animal feedlots in 30 states found minute amounts of dozens of antibiotics, hormones, pain relievers, cough suppressants, disinfectants and other products. It is not known whether they are harmful to plants, animals or people. The findings were released yesterday on the Web site of theUnited States Geological Survey, which conducted the research, and in an online journal, Environmental Science and Technology. Additional federal studies are under way to see if any contamination reaches taps or ground water used for drinking, but the program under which they are conducted, the toxic substances hydrology program of the geological survey, is slated to be eliminated under budget cuts proposed by the Bush administration, government officials said… estrogens and similar compounds are increasingly the focus of research by the Environmental Protection Agency and many scientists because of hints that they alter sexual characteristics in fish and other aquatic species. "As we look more at low levels of drugs, it appears that some of them have real biological effects in real situations," Dr. Goldburg said. About 40 percent of the streams in the study showed traces of estrogen or other reproductive hormones.

-Andrew C. Revkin, "F.D.A. Considers New Tests for Environmental Effects,"
The New York Times, 14 Mar 2002

Industrial agriculture now accounts for over half of America's water pollution. Two years ago, Pfiesteria outbreaks connected with wastes from industrial chicken factories forced the closure of two major tributaries of the Chesapeake and threatened Maryland's vital shellfish industry. Tyson Foods has polluted half of all streams in northwestern Arkansas with so much fecal bacteria that swimming is prohibited. Drugs and hormones needed to keep confined animals alive and growing are mainly excreted with the wastes and saturate local waterways.

-Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. "Free-Range at Last, Free-Range at Last,"
Grist Magazine, 20 Nov 2000

Inanimate objects are sometimes parties to litigation. A ship has legal personality…The corporation…is an acceptable adversary and large fortunes ride on its cases…So it should be as respects valleys, ridges, groves of trees, swampland, or even air that feels the destructive pressures of modern technology and modern life. The river, for example, is the living symbol of all the life it sustains or nourishes – fish, aquatic insects, water ouzels, otter, fisher, deer, elk, bear, and all other animals, including man, who are dependent on it or who enjoy it for its sight, its sound, or its life. The river as plaintiff speaks for the ecological unit of life that is part of it.

-Justice William O. Douglas (1898-1980), dissenting, 
Supreme Court of the United States, No. 70-34, 1972

The 1,450-mile Colorado River was known in years past as the American Nile, yet has been so devastated that its waters no longer reach the sea. More than 20 dams, diversion schemes, and a variety of industrial and agricultural pollutants threaten the integrity of this 246,000 square mile watershed from the headwaters in Wyoming, Utah, New Mexico and Colorado, and through Nevada, Arizona, and California, to the river's desiccated delta at the Gulf of California in northwestern Mexico.

–"Nation's Most Senior River Activist Declares 
Colorado Most Endangered Watershed"
E-Wire Press Release, 7 Apr 2000

We must begin thinking like a river if we are to leave a legacy of beauty and life for future generations.

-David Brower quoted by E-Wire, 7 Apr 2000  

Only one-third of the water that annually runs to the sea is accessible to humans. Of this, more than half is already being appropriated and used. This proportion might not seem so much, but demand will double in thirty years. And much of what is available is degraded by eroded silt, sewage, industrial pollution, chemicals, excess nutrients, and plagues of algae. Per capita availability of good, potable water is diminishing in all developed and developing countries.

-Marq de Villiers, Water, 2000  

Water, water, everywhere,
And all the boards did shrink.
Water, water everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink.

-Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834), 
"The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" 1798

The real conflict of the beach is not between sea and shore, for theirs is only a lover's quarrel, but between man and nature. On the beach, nature has achieved a dynamic equilibrium that is alien to man and his static sense of equilibrium. Once a line has been established, whether it be a shoreline or a property line, man unreasonably expects it to stay put.

-G. Soucie, Smithsonian 1973

Who has cut a channel for the flood water, Or the path for the thunderstorm;
To cause it to rain on a land where no man is;
On the wilderness, in which there is no man;
To satisfy the waste and desolate ground, To cause the tender grass to spring forth?
Does the rain have a father? Or who fathers the drops of dew?
Out of whose womb came the ice? The gray frost of the sky, who has given birth to it?
The waters become hard like stone, When the surface of the deep is frozen.

-Job 38:25-30 from the World English translation of the Bible  

Let the rain kiss you.
Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops.
Let the rain sing you a lullaby.

The rain makes still pools on the sidewalk.
The rain makes running pools in the gutter.
The rain plays a little sleep-song on our roof at night--

And I love the rain.

-Langston Hughes (1902-1967), April Rain Song, 1921  

Rain is grace; rain is the sky condescending to the earth; without rain, there would be no life.

-John Updike, Self-Consciousness: Memoirs, 1989  

Let me say this before rain becomes a utility that they can plan and distribute for money. By "they" I mean the people who cannot understand that rain is a festival, who do not appreciate its gratuity, who think that what has no price has no value, that what cannot be sold is not real, so that the only way to make something actual is to place it on the market. The time will come when they will sell you even your rain. At the moment it is still free, and I am in it. I celebrate its gratuity and its meaninglessness.

-Thomas Merton (1915-1968), "Rain and the Rhinoceros"
from Raids on the Unspeakable, 1965

The roots of the grass strain,
Tighten, the earth is rigid, waits—he is waiting—
And suddenly, and all at once, the rain!

-Archibald MacLeish (1892–1982), Memorial Rain  

Be glad, O people of Zion,
rejoice in the Lord your God,
for he has given you
the autumn rains in righteousness.
He sends you abundant showers,
both autumn and spring rains, as before.

-the prophet Joel (c. 835 BC) in Joel 2:23 
from the NIV Bible 

The thirsty earth soaks up the rain,
And drinks, and gapes for drink again;
The plants suck in the earth, and are
With constant drinking fresh and fair.

–Abraham Cowley (1618–1667), Anacreon  

Humans build their societies around consumption of fossil water long buried in the earth, and these societies, being based on temporary resources, face the problem of being temporary themselves.

-Charles Bowden, Killing the Hidden Waters, 1977 *  

All over East Africa—indeed, all over Africa—it is normal for people to walk a kilometer or two or six for water. In more arid areas, people walk even greater distances, and sometimes all they find at the end is a pond slimy with overuse. More than 90 percent of Africans still dig for their water, and waterborne diseases such as typhoid, dysentery, bilharzia, and cholera are common. The bodies of many Africans are a stew of parasites. In some areas the wells are so far below the earth's surface that chains of people are required to pass up the water.

-Marq de Villiers, Water, 2000  

325 gallons of water are consumed per person per day in Las Vegas, possibly more than any other city in the world.

-Josh Sevin, "Water, Water Everywhere," Grist Magazine, 20 Dec 99

If surface water can be compared with interest income, and non-renewable groundwater with capital, then much of the West was living mainly on interest income. California was milking interest and capital in about equal proportion. The plains states, however, were devouring capital as a gang of spendthrift heirs might squander a great capitalist's fortune.

-Marc Reisner, Cadillac Desert, 1986 *

Global fresh water supplies are being used up so fast that almost half a billion people already depend on nonrenewable sources, an international conference was told Monday. Water riots such as those in China's Shandong province last month will become more common as people struggle for control of dwindling supplies, said Lester Brown, chairman of the U.S.-based Worldwatch Institute. Thousands of Chinese farmers clashed with police in July after officials cut off water leaking from a dam near Anqiu village in Shandong province, according to a human rights group.

-Reuters News Service
"Global water supply central issue at Stockholm conference"
reported by CNN.com 14 August 00

More than half the watersheds of China’s seven main rivers are contaminated by industrial, farm and household waste, officials warned said in a bleak annual report on the nation’s environment. In addition, millions of people in northern China face water shortages this summer as the Yellow River falls to its lowest level in 50 years, the officials said. …Only one-quarter of the 21 billion tons of China’s annual output of household sewage is treated, Xie said. Treatment plants are being built, but will still handle only half of all city sewage, leaving rural waste water untreated. The government has forecast an annual water shortfall of 53 trillion gallons by 2030 — more than China now consumes in a year.

-Associated Press, “China issues dire environment report,” 
, 06 Jun 2003 

Worship the LORD your God, and his blessing will be on your food and water.

-Exodus 23:25 from the New International Version of the Bible  

Portage is “a glacier that’s almost out of water; it’s thinned dramatically,” said U.S. Geological Survey geologist Bruce Molina, the author the book “Glaciers of Alaska.” About 98 percent of Alaska’s glaciers are retreating or stagnant, he said. Alaskan glaciers add 13.2 trillion gallons of melted water to the seas each year—the equivalent of more than 13 million Olympic-sized swimming pools, University of Alaska in Fairbanks scientists concluded after a decade of studying glaciers with air-borne lasers. The rate of glacier run-off has doubled over just a few decades, they found.  Alaska’s melting glaciers are the No. 1 reason the oceans are rising, Molnia said.

-Seth Borenstein, Washington Bureau, “The melting tip of the iceberg,”  
St. Paul Pioneer Press
, 3 Aug 03  

The middle of the West Antarctic ice sheet, one of the world's largest storehouses of water, is thinning and could lead to a dramatic rise in global sea levels, according to research published yesterday in the journal Science. British researchers using extremely accurate satellite-based measurements have found that the ice sheet interior thinned about 10 metres from 1992 to 1999. The thinning occurred because of the rapid flow of ice to the ocean by the Pine Island Glacier, the largest glacier in West Antarctica and a key indicator of what is happening in the interior of the ice sheet. If it were all to melt, the ice sheet in this section of Antarctica would raise global sea levels by about five metres, a development that would inundate many coastal cities… From the diminishing size of mountain glaciers to the shortening duration of annual winter snow coverage at more temperate latitudes, scientists are finding that the planet's ice and snow are melting away almost everywhere they look.

-Martin Mittelstaedt, "Antarctic may be on thin ice,"
Toronto Globe and Mail, 02 Feb 01

He stretches out the north over empty space, 
And hangs the earth on nothing.
He binds up the waters in his thick clouds, 
And the cloud is not burst under them.
He encloses the face of his throne, And spreads his cloud on it.
He has described a boundary on the surface of the waters,
And to the confines of light and darkness.
The pillars of heaven tremble And are astonished at his rebuke.
He stirs up the sea with his power

-Job 26:7-12 from the World English translation of the Bible  

Don't throw away the old bucket until you know whether the new one holds water.

-Swedish proverb  

Excessive withdrawal of natural mineral or spring water to produce bottled water has threatened local streams and groundwater, and the product consumes significant amounts of energy in production and shipping. Millions of tons of oil-derived plastics, mostly polyethylene terephthalate (PET), are used to make the water bottles, most of which are not recycled. Each year, about 2 million tons of PET bottles end up in landfills in the United States; in 2005, the national recycling rate for PET was only 23.1 percent, far below the 39.7 percent rate achieved a decade earlier.

-Worldwatch Institute, 5 May 07   

Researchers with the U.S. Geological Survey estimate that 42 million Americans use groundwater vulnerable to low-level contamination by volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The estimate is based on the first nationwide assessment of untreated groundwater aquifers, which found VOC levels in excess of federal drinking water criteria in about 6 percent of urban wells and 1.5 percent of rural wells... Volatile organic compounds are found in a variety of products, including gasoline, paints, plastics, and solvents. The gasoline additive MTBE (methyl tert-butyl ether) and solvent compounds were "among the most frequently detected VOCs in urban and rural areas," according to the report.

-U.S. Water News Online, December, 1999  

The waters saw you, O God, the waters saw you and writhed; the very depths were convulsed. The clouds poured down water, the skies resounded with thunder; your arrows flashed back and forth. Your thunder was heard in the whirlwind, your lightning lit up the world; the earth trembled and quaked.

-Psalm 77:16-18 from the New International translation of the Bible  

The sea-shore is a sort of neutral ground, a most advantageous point from which to contemplate the world....There is naked Nature, inhumanly sincere, wasting no thought on man, nibbling at the cliffy shore where gulls wheel amid the spray.

-Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), Cape Cod, 1865

Roll on, thou deep and dark blue Ocean—roll!
Ten thousand fleets sweep over thee in vain;
Man marks the earth with ruin—his control
Stops with the shore

-Lord Byron (1788-1824), "Solitude," Childe Harold's Pilgrimage  

"From 1995 to 2000 we saw the highest level of North Atlantic hurricane activity ever measured," Goldenberg [Stanley Goldenberg, a research meteorologist at NOAA's Hurricane Research Division] said. "Compared with the previous 24 years there were twice as many hurricanes in the Atlantic, including two and a half times more major hurricanes - those reaching Category 3 strength with winds reaching more than 110 mph - and more than five times as many hurricanes impacting the Caribbean islands."

-Environment News Service,
Hurricane Activity Accelerates in U.S. Long Term Forecast, 23 Jul 2001

There is some evidence that average wave heights are slowly rising, and that freak waves of eighty or ninety feet are becoming more common. Wave heights off the coast of England have risen an average of 25 percent over the past couple of decades, which converts to a twenty-foot increase in the highest waves over the next half century. One cause may be the tightening of environmental laws, which has reduced the amount of oil flushed into the oceans by oil tankers. Oil spreads across water in a film several molecules thick and inhibits the generation of capillary waves, which in turn prevent the wind from getting a "grip" on the sea. Plankton releases a chemical that has the same effect, and plankton levels in the North Atlantic have dropped dramatically. Another explanation is that the recent warming trend—some call it the greenhouse effect—has made storms more frequent and severe. Waves have destroyed docks and buildings in Newfoundland, for example, that haven't been damaged for decades.

-Sebatian Junger, The Perfect Storm, 1998  

You visit the earth, and water it. You greatly enrich it.
The river of God is full of water. You provide them grain, for so you have ordained it.
You drench its furrows. You level its ridges.
You soften it with showers. You bless it with a crop.

-Psalm 65:9-10 from the World English translation of the Bible  

Water is the most precious, limited natural resource we have in this country...But because water belongs to no one - except the people - special interests, including government polluters, use it as their private sewers.

-Ralph Nader 
quoted in Water Wasteland by David Zwick & Marcy Benstock, 1971 *

The Environmental Protection Agency Thursday released a report confirming the bad news: that America's so-called Great Waters -- the Great Lakes, Chesapeake Bay, Lake Champlain and coastal waters -- continue to suffer from runoff, pollution discharge and air pollution. According to the Great Waters Report, fish consumption advisories have been in place for 39 of the 56 Great Waters since 1997. "Although the United States has made tremendous progress cleaning up its water by removing billions of pounds of pollutants and doubling the number of waterways safe for fishing and swimming, a majority of Americans live within 10 miles of a polluted lake, river, stream or coastal area," said EPA Administrator Carol Browner.

-Environmental News Network
"U.S. economy depends on clean water," 9 June 2000

Filthy water cannot be washed.

-West African proverb * 

Over 1 billion people have no access to clean drinking water, and more than 2.9 billion have no access to sanitation services. The reality is that a child dies every eight seconds from drinking contaminated water, and the sanitation trend is getting sharply worse, mostly because of the worldwide drift of the rural peasantry to urban slums.

-Marq de Villiers, Water, 2000 

It takes 1,000 tons of water to produce 1 ton of grain. As water becomes scarce and countries are forced to divert irrigation water to cities and industry, they will import more grain. As they do so, water scarcity will be transmitted across national borders via the grain trade. Aquifer depletion is a largely invisible threat, but that does not make it any less real.

-Lester A. Brown, Michael Renner, Brian Halweil, Vital Signs 1999, 1999 

He split rocks in the wilderness, 
And gave them drink abundantly as out of the depths.
He brought streams also out of the rock, 
And caused waters to run down like rivers.
Yet they still went on to sin against him, 
To rebel against the Most High in the desert.
They tempted God in their heart 
By asking food according to their desire.

-Psalm 78:15-18 from the World English translation of the Bible  

I also took a look at the data on the local drinking water. In 1996-97, two pesticides were detectable in Bloomington's tap water—atrazine and alachhlor. Neither exceeded its legal maximum contaminant levels, meaning that the water was not in violation of the law. The fact did not reassure me. Compliance is based on the average of four quarterly test results; springtime spikes in excess of the maximum contaminant levels are not considered a legal transgression. But embryological development does not honor averages. Nor are the standards set with fetuses in mind. Furthermore, Bloomington's nitrate levels did violate the legal standards for several years running (1990-93). Nitrates—almost certainly from fertilizer runoff—bind with hemoglobin and diminish its ability to carry oxygen… A recent study of amphibian reproduction found that nitrate levels well above the legal limits for tap water caused developmental abnormalities and death among tadpoles. Do I feel comfortable drinking water that may well contain levels of fertilizer sufficient to kill baby frogs? No.

-Sandra Steingraber, Having Faith, 2001  

Fertilizer levels the Environmental Protection Agency say are safe for human drinking water can kill some species of frogs and toads, according to a new study. Oregon State University researchers found some tadpoles and young frogs raised in water with low levels of nitrates typical of fertilizer runoff ate less, developed physical abnormalities, suffered paralysis and eventually died. In control tanks with normal water, none died. "We're looking at levels of nitrates so low we didn't think we'd get any effect," said Andrew Blaustein, a zoology professor and expert on global amphibian declines... "The question I have to ask is, are you comfortable drinking water with levels of fertilizer that kills off frogs?"

-Associated Press reported in The Oregonian, 1/6/00  

University of California at Berkeley developmental endocrinologist Tyrone Hayes and his colleagues report that exposing male tadpoles to atrazine in the laboratory, using levels often found in the environment, demasculinizes the tadpoles, preventing male characteristics from fully forming. The atrazine exposure turns the tadpoles into hermaphrodites - creatures with both male and female sexual characteristics. The herbicide also lowers levels of the male hormone testosterone in sexually mature male frogs by a factor of 10, to levels lower than those found in normal female frogs. As Hayes later discovered, many atrazine contaminated ponds in the Midwest contain native leopard frogs with the same abnormalities. "Atrazine exposed frogs don't have normal reproductive systems… The use of atrazine in the environment is basically an uncontrolled experiment - there seems to be no atrazine free environment," Hayes said. "Because it is so widespread, aquatic environments are at risk." More than 60 million pounds of atrazine were applied last year in the United States alone. Manufacturer Syngenta estimates that farmers use the herbicide to control weeds on about two-thirds of all U.S. farm acres planted with corn and sorghum. On average, atrazine improves corn yield by just over four percent.

-Cat Lazaroff, "Common Herbicide Linked to Sexual Side Effects in Frogs,"
Environment News Service, 16 Apr 02

The frog does not
Drink up
The pond in which
He lives.

-American Indian proverb
quoted in Water Wasteland by David Zwick & Marcy Benstock, 1971 *

Alarmed by toxic pollution in the Great Lakes, a leading scientific advisory board has issued an urgent call for people to stop eating the contaminated fish that swim in them. It's the first time that an established scientific group has stated categorically that chemical contaminants in the lakes hurt human health and that they are in the food chain, Fabien Lengellé, spokesman for the 91-year-old International Joint Commission, said yesterday… "The commission has some very serious concerns about the injury to human health from exposures to contaminants in Great Lakes fish," the commission's report says.

-Alanna Mitchell, "Great Lakes fish called human health hazard,"
The Globe and Mail, 26 July 00

Leaks of the gas additive MTBE from nearly 1,200 underground tank sites threaten the drinking water supply of millions of Californians, state records show. In the Bay Area, 251 leaking tank sites pose an MTBE contamination threat to public wells. …analysis of data from the State Water Resources Control Board and the state Department of Health Services reveals for the first time that the fast-moving MTBE already has reached 48 wells in public water systems serving hundreds of thousands of people, including seven wells in the Bay Area -- at San Francisco's Presidio, in Montara and in San Jose -- forcing closures or expensive treatment.

-Jane Kay, 
"Drinking water in peril MTBE contaminates 48 wells in public system,"
San Francisco Chronicle, 26 Aug 01

I will give over the Egyptians into the hand of a cruel lord; and a fierce king shall rule over them, says the Lord, Yahweh of Hosts. The waters shall fail from the sea, and the river shall be wasted and become dry. The rivers shall become foul; the streams of Egypt shall be diminished and dried up; the reeds and flags shall wither away. The meadows by the Nile, by the brink of the Nile, and all the sown fields of the Nile, shall become dry, be driven away, and be no more. The fishermen shall lament, and all those who cast angle into the Nile shall mourn, and those who spread nets on the waters shall languish.

-Isaiah 19:4-8 from the World English translation of the Bible  

You don't miss your water until your well runs dry.

-an old country proverb  

We need a global approach to this from all sides. We need to educate people, we need the scientists to create new technologies, we need the engineers to create the networks, we need every human being to be aware of how precious water is and save it. Everybody has to be involved in a very firm and assertive way.

-Isabel Allende, 
quoted in Peter Swanson's Water: The Drop of Life, 2001

"The desert is beautiful," the little prince added. And that was true. I have always loved the desert. One sits down on a desert sand dune, sees nothing, hears nothing. Yet through the silence something throbs and gleams.... "What makes the desert beautiful," said the little prince, "is that somewhere it hides a well...."

-Antoine de Saint-Exupery (1900-1944), The Little Prince 

The problem with water, though, is that the shortfalls don't show up until the very end. You can go on pumping unsustainably until the day you run out. Then all you have is the recharge flow, which comes from precipitation. This is not decades away, this is years away. We're already seeing huge shortages in China, where the Yellow River runs dry for part of each year. The Yellow River is the cradle of Chinese civilization. It first failed to reach the sea in 1972, and since 1985 it's run dry for part of each year. For 1997 it was dry for 226 days.

-Lester Brown, quoted in interview in Audubon, Nov-Dec, '99  

We must treat water as if it were the most precious thing in the world, the most valuable natural resource. Be economical with water! Don't waste it! We still have time to do something about this problem before it is too late.

-Mikhail Gorbachev, President of Green Cross International,
quoted in Peter Swanson's Water: The Drop of Life, 2001

Water is the blood in our veins.

-Levi Eshkol, Israeli Prime Minister, 1962  

And He it is Who has made two seas to flow freely, the one sweet that subdues thirst by its sweetness, and the other salt that burns by its saltness; and between the two He has made a barrier and inviolable obstruction. And He it is Who has created man from the water, then He has made for him blood relationship and marriage relationship, and your Lord is powerful.

-Qur'an 25.53-54, M. H. Shakir's translation  

The delicate salt balance of the Atlantic Ocean has altered so dramatically in the last four decades through global warming that it is changing the very heat-conduction mechanism of the ocean and stands to turn Northern Europe into a frigid zone. The conclusions are from a study in the journal Nature that is to be published today. The study describes planet-scale changes in the regulatory function of the ocean that affect precipitation, evaporation, fresh-water cycles and climate. "This has the potential to change the circulation of the ocean significantly in our lifetime," said Ruth Curry of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, the study's lead author.

-Alanna Mitchell, “Atlantic's salt balance poses threat, study says,”  
Globe and Mail
 18 Dec 03

You think we have bad fights over oil. Just wait until we start fighting over water. It's predicted in the Koran.

-Anonymous Jordanian quoted in The Washington Post, 28 Mar 91  

Whiskey is for drinkin'; water is for fightin'.

-attributed to Mark Twain 
a.k.a. Samuel Langhorne Clemens (1835-1910)

Fierce national competition over water resources has prompted fears that water issues contain the seeds of violent conflict.

-Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations,
"UN warns of looming water crisis," BBC News 22 Mar 02

According to the report, by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), an estimated 1.1 billion people have no access to safe drinking water, 2.5 billion lack proper sanitation and more than five million people die from waterborne diseases each year - 10 times the number of casualties killed in wars around the globe… "The simple fact is that there is a limited amount of water on the planet, and we cannot afford to be negligent in its use. We cannot keep treating it as if it will never run out," the IAEA's director, Mohamed El-Baradei, said.

-BBC News "UN warns of looming water crisis," 22 Mar 02  

The wars of the twenty-first century will be fought over water.

-Ismail Serageldin, World Bank Vice President for Environmental Affairs,
quoted in Marq de Villiers' Water, 2000

War over water would be an ultimate obscenity. And yet, unfortunately it is conceivable... Water has been a source over so many years of erosion of confidence, of tension, of human rights abuses, really, of so many in areas whose traditional water supplies have been controlled and depleted by occupational authorities. That must stop if we're going to be able to develop a climate for peace.

-Queen Noor of Jordan 
quoted in Peter Swanson's Water: The Drop of Life, 2001

As I travel around the world, people think the only place where there is potential conflict [over] water is the Middle East, but they are completely wrong. We have the problem all over the world.

-Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of theUnited Nations,
quoted in Peter Swanson's Water: The Drop of Life, 2001

Those who go down to the sea in ships, Who do business in great waters;
These see Yahweh's works, And his wonders in the deep.
For he commands, and raises the stormy wind, Which lifts up its waves.
They mount up to the sky; they go down again to the depths.
Their soul melts away because of trouble.
They reel back and forth, and stagger like a drunken man, And are at their wits' end.
Then they cry to Yahweh in their trouble, He brings them out of their distress.
He makes the storm a calm, So that its waves are still.
Then are they glad because it is calm, So he brings them to their desired haven.
Let them praise Yahweh for his lovingkindness,
For his wonderful works to the children of men!
Let them exalt him also in the assembly of the people,
And praise him in the seat of the elders.
He turns rivers into a desert, Water springs into a thirsty ground,
And a fruitful land into a salt waste, For the wickedness of those who dwell in it.
He turns a desert into a pool of water, And a dry land into water springs.
There he makes the hungry to live, That they may prepare a city to live in,
Sow fields, plant vineyards, And reap the fruits of increase.
He blesses them also, so that they are multiplied greatly.
He doesn't allow their cattle to decrease.
Again, they are diminished and bowed down Through oppression, trouble, and sorrow.

-Psalm 107:23-39 from the World English translation of the Bible 

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Last Updated: February 2011

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