Water, water, everywhere, And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
This morning I read a story about the New York Triathlon, which starts with 4,000 swimmers jumping into the Hudson River. “It’s strange to do a swim where you’re wearing goggles and you still can’t see your hand in front of you,” said one competitor of a river that has signs warning about the hazards of the untreated sewage.
It’s amazing how many articles are directly or indirectly about water, from the front pages to the sports pages, most of which are not good news. At least three-quarters of the area of Arizona, Kansas, New Mexico and Nevada are suffering from severe drought. In California the figure is 100%, and 10 of its cities are in fast running out of water. In Detroit, the city cut water supplies to thousands of people struggling to pay their bills, while Toledo is under a tap-water ban because of algae blooms in Lake Erie. ISIS is moving to take control of the Mosul dam, “the most dangerous dam in the world,” whose failure could send a 65-foot tidal wave across northern Iraq.
The earth is made up primarily of water – about 332,500,000 cubic miles of it, in fact – but as the ancient mariner lamented, almost none of it is fit to drink. Yet, as we continue to fret about oil, we continue to waste and pollute the source of life.