Polluted drinking water is a significant health threat that is sorely underreported and oft-ignored.
A recent article in the Star Tribune 1 highlights the very real struggle to access clean drinking water right here in the United States.
Minnesota Facing Growing Water Contamination Problem
In part due to the fact that Minnesota is prime farm land, many of the state's inhabitants now face the problem of having elevated levels of nitrogen in their drinking water.
The conversion of grasslands and pastures into chemical-driven, industrial crop land has eliminated much of the natural filtering of ground water that such native landscapes typically provide.
The areas worst affected include:
Besides the health risks - which include a potential connection to cancer, as well as thyroid and reproductive problems in both humans and livestock - groundwater contaminated by nitrogen is also a huge financial drain for affected communities.
According to the featured article, about a dozen
Minnesota communities so far have spent millions of dollars to clean
nitrogen from their water supplies. However, well owners, such as the
Carlson's, are on their own.
At present, an estimated six percent of private wells are contaminated with nitrogen; this despite the fact that farmers have actually cut their use of the fertilizer quite dramatically.
Is Your Water Safe to Drink?
Unless you are getting your water from a well that is located 800 feet or more below the ground surface, chances are your well water has been contaminated by some, if not many, toxic substances that have been dumped into the ground soil over past decades.
Besides fertilizers like nitrogen, other common toxins that are dumped by the millions of pounds into soil every year are:
Many private wells in the United States have been affected by these types of chemical or heavy metal runoff from the surrounding ground soil, and this is to say nothing of the microorganisms living in well water as well.
No matter how clean or pure your natural ground water looks, this has nothing to do with potential bacterial contamination or toxic pollution in the water. Many of the offenders in well water are just much too small to be seen with the naked eye.
So, if your home uses well water, you really need to test to see what unwanted contaminants you're piping into your house, and then filter it accordingly.
If you get municipal water, you should have that tested too.
There are more than 140 chemicals in U.S. drinking water supplies that are not regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).3
This includes gasoline, pesticides, rocket fuel, prescription drugs and more. More than 20 percent of U.S. water treatment systems violated key provisions of the Safe Drinking Water Act between 2004 and 2009 alone.
Since 2004, the water provided to more than 49 million people has contained illegal concentrations of chemicals like arsenic or radioactive substances like uranium, as well as dangerous bacteria often found in sewage.
Fracking - Another Threat to Fresh Water Reserves
Industrial agriculture is not the only threat to our drinking water.
Hydraulic fracturing, the method used to drill for natural gas, also known as "fracking," is becoming yet another major source of groundwater contamination. The documentary 'Gasland' shed much needed light on the environmental destructiveness of the method:
Promised Land, a Hollywood production featuring actor Matt Damon premiered on December 28, 2012.
According to Reuters:4
The primary concern over fracking is its environmental impact, particularly its potential to render water supplies undrinkable.
The method entails pumping chemical-laced water and sand at high pressure into shale rock formation, thereby releasing hydrocarbons. The chemicals used in the process have the potential to leak into nearby groundwater, either from the well, or from spills above ground.
Yet another concern is fracking-induced earthquakes.
According to Reuters, several drillers have been fined for water contamination due to spilled fracking fluids, and in 2011, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released findings of a potential link between fracking and water contamination after sampling water supplies in Pavillion, Wyoming.
The EPA is scheduled to release an in-depth study on fracking's impact on water supplies in 2014.
Fresh Water Reserves Depleted by Agricultural Irrigation
Besides contamination, fresh water reserves are also being outright depleted by agricultural irrigation.
An article in Harper's Magazine 5 published last summer highlighted the rapid depletion of the Ogallala Aquifer - the largest subterranean water supply in the United States.
According to Kevin Mulligan, a professor at Texas Tech University who leads the effort to monitor the Ogallala, available water in the aquifer has gone down by about 80-100 feet in just the past 15 years, and none of the water is likely to be replenished.
A mere 20 years from now, it's unlikely that any irrigated agriculture will be possible on the high plains - the water will be all gone...
Genetically Engineered Crops Compound These Problems
Industrial monoculture farming practices as a whole pose a tremendous threat to water supplies, in multiple ways, whether through contamination or by depleting what little fresh water is available.
And far from being a solution, genetically engineered (GE) crops make matters even worse, as they end up needing more agricultural chemicals than other crops, and typically require more water...
India is an agrarian country, populated by 1.1 billion people, about 60 percent of whom are directly or indirectly dependent on agriculture. With the introduction of genetically engineered crops, Indian farmers have taken to suicide at alarming rates due to the failure of such crops.
There are four primary factors directly related to the use of genetically engineered seed that contribute heavily to this grim situation:
What's the Best Option for Safe, Pure Water?
There's no doubt about it:
For most people, regardless of where you live, purifying the water you drink is more a necessity than a choice.
By this I do NOT mean resorting to bottled water from your supermarket. Bottled water is typically nothing more than bottled tap water that may or may not have received additional filtration, and the federal testing requirements for bottled water are actually more lax than those for communal water supplies.
One of the best alternatives to the tap may be finding a gravity-fed raw spring in your area - barring contamination from nearby agriculture, that is. Fortunately, natural springs are often monitored by the local municipalities for contaminants.
Natural spring water is naturally filtered by the earth and is "living water," in the same way that raw food is "living food," which is why it's some of the most healthful water on the planet. Before you dismiss this idea because you think there are no such springs in your neck of the woods, there is a Web site called FindaSpring.com that can help you locate springs in your area.
The next best option is to filter the water that comes out of your tap, but there are benefits and drawbacks to virtually every water filtration system on the market.
Currently, I use a whole house carbon-based water filtration system. Prior to this I used reverse osmosis (RO) to purify my water. This previous article can help you make a decision about what type of water filtration system will be best for you and your family.
Since most water sources are now severely polluted, the issue of water filtration and purification couldn't be more important.
Keep Fighting for Labeling of Genetically Engineered Foods
While California Prop. 37 failed to pass last November, by a very narrow margin, the fight for GMO labeling is far from over.
The field-of-play has now moved to the state of Washington, where the people's initiative 522, "The People's Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act," will require food sold in retail outlets to be labeled if it contains genetically engineered ingredients.
As stated on LabelitWA.org:
Remember, as with CA Prop. 37, they need support of people like YOU to succeed.
Prop. 37 failed with a very narrow margin simply because we didn't have the funds to counter the massive ad campaigns created by the No on 37 camp, led by Monsanto and other major food companies.
Let's not allow Monsanto and its allies to confuse and mislead the people of Washington and Vermont as they did in California.
So please, I urge you to get involved and help in any way you can, regardless of what state you live in.