Thursday, May 10, 2012

Thirsty Thursday: The Importance of Water

Last week we covered some of the elements not included in my $1.50 daily budget, but that of course factor into people's needs. Access to safe water was one of the big issues; I couldn't imagine trying to function on this limited dietary intake without such unimpeded availability of water. Humans can survive for upwards of a month without food, but a mere 10-14 days without water. Besides being an essential resource for sustaining humans, water is the life support for the planet. I mean, why else do astronomers continue to look for signs of water on our distant planets?

The land-water interactions are pretty fascinating. What we do on land - farm, mine, graze livestock - has implications for downstream health. Improper management of animal wastes can contaminate waterways and cause illness to those who depend on that source for drinking water. Fertilizer runoff into the Mississippi River and its tributaries from the "corn belt" of the United States, has resulted in an area in the Gulf of Mexico devoid of any marine life - a dead zone. There are examples of indigenous Thai communities that recognized the importance of the watershed to their livelihoods, and banded together to reforest degraded areas and shift towards less chemically-intensive agricultural practices.

As I move into the fourth day of the Live Below the Line challenge, my thoughts turn to the organization for which I am raising funds. Rainforest Foundation strives to protect both the  rich biological diversity of South and Central American rainforests and the cultural integrity of the peoples whose lives and livelihoods are intertwined with the forests. One way they do this is by working to secure indigenous land tenure and natural resources rights. The health of water systems, as just described, depends largely on the ability to manage surrounding land uses in a responsible manner. With forest and other resources under the control of the local populations, rampant deforestation or resource extraction is unlikely to occur.

For more musings on water, check out some previous posts.
To support the Rainforest Foundation and Live Below the Line, click here.

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