Happy International Water Day and Indigenous World Water Day!
International Water Day is an observance of water, which is understood as the source of life. The event was created by the United Nations in 1992, and has been celebrated every year on March 22 to create awareness about global water issues and concerns. Events, such as symposiums, film screenings, and art exhibits are held around the world to promote sustainable management of fresh water.
I had not heard of this observance prior to yesterday. I wonder if that is because it is easy to take for granted something that for me has always been expected. I have rarely questioned the water coming from my pipes. For many around the world, and even in the United States that is not the case.
Water issues are closer to home than I had realized. I live in Vermont, and just ninety miles away in Bennington residents can no longer drink their water due to PFOA contamination. Last year the EPA dumped (or spilled) three million gallons of toxic mine waste into the Animas River. The sludge turned the river orange, and it carried down the river through Durango, Colorado, whose economy is strongly pushed by tourism and farming. The sludge contaminated other communities, drifting southward to Farmington, New Mexico, where the Animas meets the San Juan River. Farmington relies on its water for farming and grazing. Crops and animals have since died because of the spill.
The San Juan carried the toxin through Kirtland and Shiprock, New Mexico, back through the Four Corners, back into Colorado and then Utah. It passed Montezuma Creek, Utah, and the town of Bluff, Utah. It cut southward toward Mexican Water, Utah, and westward contaminating Goosenecks State Park. All these communities rely on the water for farming and tourism.
Just last summer I met a group that went rafting from Bluff to Mexican Hat just weeks before the spill. Hotels, restaurants, and other such businesses are now affected, because after the spill the river is no longer raftable. The incident became real to me when it hit my in-laws who live in Monument Valley, Utah. They were fortunate that they do not farm, and that their water came from a different source, but others in the community were not so lucky.
The San Juan River feeds into Lake Powell, where the toxin arrived on August 14, 2015. It contaminated the lake, but after two weeks of dilution Lake Powell returned to normal levels, but after how much damage? This International Water Day, I would like to bring awareness to this issue, to rectify the wrong that was done, and to promote clean water in the Four Corners region. As stated in the Declaration of Independence, our first unalienable right is that of life. We have a right to life, and clean water is life.
By: Brian D. King
Brian D. King is a writer and blogger who currently resides in Wilder, Vermont.