When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst, I the Lord will answer them, I will not forsake them. I will open rivers on the bare heights, and fountains in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water. I will put in the wilderness the cedar, the acacia, the myrtle, and the olive; I will set in the desert the cypress, the plane and the pine together, so that all may see and know, all may consider and understand, that the hand of the Lord has done this, the Holy One of Israel has created it. [Isaiah 41:17-20]

I. Why should Episcopalians be concerned about your topic?

The Gospel calls on us all to care for the least among us. We are certainly not the first to address the issues of water availability, water quality and water justice.

Water is threaded throughout the Bible, and often plays a prominent, if not the dominant role in stories.

• Creation, which began with a wind from God sweeping over the face of the waters, and then God creating life out of those waters
• Moses as a baby floating in a basket of reeds in the river
• Moses parting the Red Sea
• The flood and Noah in his ark
• Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan
• The woman at the well from whom Jesus requests a drink
• The disciples and Jesus on the boat when the storm comes up
• Jesus walking on water1

“While communities in the United States struggle to deal with the growing water crisis, in other countries, people are literally dying from lack of access to safe, affordable water. Around the world, 1.1 billion people do not have access to safe drinking water. Each year, dehydration from disease claims the lives of nearly 2 million children. In the last 10 years, it has killed more children than all the people lost to armed conflict since World War II.”2

“The human right to water entitles everyone to sufficient, safe, acceptable, physically accessible, and affordable water for personal and domestic use.”3

“Water is a cross-cutting issue that demands a coordinated approach. Our success in avoiding a global water crisis is directly linked to our ability to address other global challenges, from poverty eradication and environmental sustainability to fluctuating food and energy costs and financial turmoil in world economies. It is therefore imperative that global risks, including those associated with water, be dealt with in an integrated manner. We must develop interdisciplinary tools that can take into account different drivers such as climate change and financial markets to achieve sustainable water management.”4

1 A Sermon on Water, http://sunlight-and-shadows.blogspot.com/2009/04/sermon-on-water.html

2 Defending the Right to Water, Unitarian Universalist Service Committee.

3 U.N. Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 2002.

4 World Water Assessment Programme. 2009. The United Nations World Water Development Report 3: Water in a Changing World. Paris: UNESCO, and London: Earthscan.

II. What might we do to address the issues at hand?

Issues surrounding water are wide ranging and are different in different locales. We suggest a few relatively simple actions that parish groups or other small groups might undertake.

1. Parish groups to study issues surrounding water availability and use:

• Issues specific to Northeastern North America

o Ground water is abundant (Annual Precipitation of one meter; Great Lakes)
o Two centuries of industrial, commercial, agricultural and governmental pollution (Acid rain, Onondaga Lake)
o Aging infrastructure (water supply, sanitary sewer and storm sewer)
o Maintaining economic growth and water supply quality

• Issues specific to Southwestern United States

o Ground water is not abundant (Annual precipitation of <0.3 m)
o Water rationing
o Conflict among user groups (agriculture, homeowners, commercial firms)

• Issues around Water ownership

o Corporate, governmental, community or cooperative ownership
o Who pays the bill for climate change?
o Desalination
o Sale and transport of water over long distances

• Upstate New York to New York City
• Colorado River
• Alaska to Mumbai to the Middle East 5
• Great Lakes to the Southwest USA

o Use of bottled water in the Global North

• Issues on safe water availability in the developing world

o Responsibilities of government – local, national and international (UN, IMF, World Bank). What have they done or not done.
o What is an acceptable quality level for the water supply? Are EPA, WHO or EU regulations appropriate? Who decides?
o Ownership of water systems. Responsibility for design, build and maintenance.
o Water as a basic human right. Is it? Are subsidies appropriate? Should water be ‘free’?
o Relationship between those who hold power, those who provide water and those who use water.
o Does Liberation Theology have a place here?

5 “The New Oil”, Newsweek, October 18, 2010, p.40 ff.

2. Address the theology of water.

• Water is mentioned eight times in the first chapter of Genesis
• “And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward.” Matt 10:42
• The last chapter of Revelation begins with The River of Life.
• Consider the many ways water is important in the Bible: Cleansing, purification, life, death, baptism, separation

3. Address the interrelationship of access to clean water with food security, health, population control, and economic development. Address the impact of global climate changes on availability of clean water.

III. What is the significant scientific information of your topic?

“To make any progress, we experts must first admit our own ignorance,” says John Cronin, Director and CEO of The Beacon Institute for Rivers and Estuaries. “We don’t know enough about our oceans. We don’t know enough about rivers and estuaries. We don’t know where the fish are in real time or where they are likely to be tomorrow. The same is true for contaminants that threaten habitats or water supplies. We have to acknowledge these realities.”6

This is far too diverse and broad a field to summarize. Several pages of references are offered below.

6 Water: A Global Innovation Outlook Report, IBM, 2009


The New Oil, Newsweek, October 18, 2010 (http://www.newsweek.com/2010/10/08/the-race-to-buy-up-the-world-s-water.html)

Response of surface water chemistry to the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, JL Stoddard, et al. (http://www.epa.gov/ord/htm/CAAA-2002-report-2col-rev-4.pdf)

Climatic Control of Nitrate Loss from Forested Watersheds in the Northeast United States, Myron J. Mitchell,,, Charles T. Driscoll,, Jeffrey S. Kahl,, Gene E. Likens,, Peter S. Murdoch, and, Linda H. Pardo, Environmental Science & Technology 1996 30 (8), 2609-2612 (http://www.esf.edu/hss/HF%20Ref%20PDF/EnvSci.30.2609.2612.pdf)

Acidic Deposition in the Northeastern United States: Sources and Inputs, Ecosystem Effects, and Management Strategies, CHARLES T. DRISCOLL, GREGORY B. LAWRENCE, ARTHUR J. BULGER, THOMAS J. BUTLER, CHRISTOPHER S. CRONAN, CHRISTOPHER EAGAR, KATHLEEN F. LAMBERT, GENE E. LIKENS, JOHN L. STODDARD, KATHLEEN C. WEATHERS, BioScience 2001 51:3, 180-198 (http://caliber.ucpress.net/doi/abs/10.1641/0006-3568(2001)051%5B0180:ADITNU%5D2.0.CO;2)

Nitrogen Pollution in the Northeastern United States: Sources, Effects, and Management Options, CHARLES T. DRISCOLL, DAVID WHITALL, JOHN ABER, ELIZABETH BOYER, MARK CASTRO, CHRISTOPHER CRONAN, CHRISTINE L. GOODALE, PETER GROFFMAN, CHARLES HOPKINSON, KATHLEEN LAMBERT, GREGORY LAWRENCE, SCOTT OLLINGER, BioScience 2003 53:4, 357-374 (http://ny.water.usgs.gov/pubs/jrn/ny0242/i0006-3568-053-04-0357.pdf)

Seasonal and long-term temporal patterns in the chemistry of Adirondack lakes, Charles T. Driscoll and Richard Dreason, Water, Air, & Soil Pollution, Volume 67, Numbers 3-4, 319-344. (http://www.springerlink.com/content/w75214974r423567/fulltext.pdf)

Who Needs Environmental Monitoring?, GM Lovett, et al., Front Ecol Environ 2007; 5(5): 253–260.

Water quality patterns in a river-lake system from multiple drivers (Three Rivers, New York State), Effler, Steven W.; Prestigiacomo, Anthony R.; Effler, Adam J.P.; Driscoll, Charles, River Systems, Volume 19, Number 1, May 2010 , pp. 75-94(20), E. Schweizerbart’sche Verlagsbuchhandlung

Nitrogen Pollution: From the Sources to the Sea,(http://www.hubbardbrookfoundation.org/filemanager/filedownload/phpw6FCHB/Nitrogen.pdf)

Acid Rain Revisited, (http://www.hubbardbrookfoundation.org/filemanager/download/3527/)

Mercury Matters, (http://www.hubbardbrookfoundation.org/filemanager/download/4935/)

Dried Up, Sold Out: How the World Bank’s Push for Private Water Harms the Poor, Food and Water Watch, 2009. (http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/water/report/dried-up-sold-out/dried-up-sold-out-1/)

Water: A Global Innovation Outlook Report, IBM, 2009, (http://www.ibm.com/ibm/gio/media/pdf/ibm_gio_water_report.pdf).

The Right to Water Conference, Syracuse University, 29-30 March 2010 (notes are available) (http://www1.maxwell.syr.edu/waterconference.aspx?id=36507226497)

Ecumenical Water Network, (http://www.oikoumene.org/en/activities/ewn-home.html)

And many, many, many more

It is noted that references are not in the appropriate format, neither are they complete in most cases


Ways of Water Reference Guide

(by Allie Graham)


Indexes and Databases 2
Human Rights and Water 2
Gender Aspects of Water 2
Infrastructure and Sustainability 3
Commercialization of Water (i.e. bottled water) 6
Sanitation and Health Perspective 7
Waterways, The Ocean, Beach Erosion/Beach Protection & Nourishment 8

(The above is the Table of Contents.  Click below to download a pdf of the file.)