Does anyone else think about what we are actually drinking when we fill our water glasses, kettles and cook pots at the kitchen tap?
Of course it depends on where you live.. even down to which street you live on. I never really did until I started travelling to other countries, where the locals don’t just take it for granted that their tap water is safe to consume. In fact, a lot of places I lived, there was no tap.. or the tap was fed from a near-by river or spring. In rural Australia, the more remote farmsteads have a bore-well, and every drop is precious. This was my first encounter with DIY water supplies, maintaining the pumps, checking the pipes, mending leaks and unblocking mesh screens. It gave me a new appreciation for having water on tap. But it also prompted me to start asking ” What’s going on behind the scenes?”
One reason I asked was to do with the taste. The bore water in the Australian desert was sometimes a bit murky, but unless you were near a mine or industrial agriculture, you could guarantee that it wasn’t tainted with foreign substances. But when I returned to Dublin to visit family, I was shocked to find that I could hardly bear the taste of the tap water. I could smell the familiar strong odour of Chlorine..
I wasn’t sure if they had increased the levels while I had been absent, or if perhaps my years of drinking pure untreated water had increased my sensitivity, but I was sure that I didn’t want to drink it. Now this was years before I became aware of how poisonous chlorine can be.. I just didn’t want to taste it. Even running the tap into the sink brought a strong odour of swimming pools to my nostrils. So I went out and bought a filter jug, hoping this would solve the problem. I didn’t realize that chlorine will simply evaporate if the water is left standing for enough time. But I was beginning to wonder what else was in the tap water.. I remembered hearing that fluoride was added, for the sake of our teeth.. wait hang on, at the time this seemed strange, but I hadn’t questioned it in my trusting state of complacency.. now I was wondering why the water board was so worried about our teeth? It was many years later when I heard the conspiracy theory about the Nazis doing experiments involving fluoride.. to placate the population and subdue their revolutionary tendencies. The theory was that governments had picked up on this stroke of genius and implemented it world-wide. Now this sounds quite ridiculous to the reasonable observer, but the teeth story isn’t much easier to swallow. So does anyone have any other answers to these questions? Why put fluoride in the water? How much is safe? What side effects would an over-dose incur? Who monitors the levels? Who monitors them? Of course these answers are different depending on where you live, but they don’t seem to be addressed anywhere. It seems to me that the public are generally quite happy to trust the powers that be to supply them with safe drinking water. If you have any doubts, then you can always buy bottled water.. a growing trend that will bury us in plastic bottles and get more expensive as time goes by.
My more recent travels have brought me to the central mountains of Portugal, where it seems half of the counter-culture of Europe has congregated, to live off-grid, grow their own food and stay under the radar. And why not? This is some of the cheapest land in Western Europe, there is lots of solar energy, the countryside has been less disturbed than anywhere else on the continent, partly because of 50 years of isolation and focus on the maintenance of these little mountain villages and a rural-based economy under the fascist dictator, Salazar. Whatever criticism you have with his cultural lock-down and secret police death squads.. he certainly was determined to maintain the vibrancy in rural Portugal. It is only in the last 30 years that the rot has crept in, with villagers flocking to the cities, farms and forests disappearing under a sea of bramble and a desert of Eucalyptus, whole villages being abandoned as the few remaining citizens perish in isolation. Thankfully this is not where I finish, because there has been a recent revival of this simple and beautiful way of life.. tending the grape vines and olive groves, perched on impossible precipices. Walking the goats up the mountains and hillsides, managing the forests of Sweet Chestnut for timber and nuts. Using every available flat space to cultivate maize, beans, cabbage, onions, pumpkins and tomatoes. Those responsible for this revival are not predominately natives, but the afore-mentioned back-to-the-landers from all over Europe, but there is a growing number of Lisbonites and young Portuguese among them.
This all began with the simple question of water.. a burning question for the residents of these mountains. Every year the water table drops, the rivers run less, more springs dry up. This is a combination of climatic change and increasing numbers of Eucalyptus plantation, a VERY thirsty tree, out of it’s natural territory and wreaking havoc on the eco-system. Not only does it’s deep tap root penetrate to the aquifers and drain them, it also creates a tinderbox around it by dropping leaves and limbs dripping with highly flammable oils. You see these trees have evolved to burn, it is part of their natural cycle and the seeds will only germinate after being exposed to fire. This doesn’t cause many problems when they are part of a natural mixed forest in their home country, but put them in mono-cultures spreading from the Atlantic to Spain in unbroken plantations, and suppress their natural cycle of fire, and you end up with a powder keg waiting to blow. The threat of forest fire hangs over every rural village in Portugal every year from June to October.. it is palpable.. and it get’s worse every year, with less rainfall, more plantations, and less people in these villages to clean the land and defend against attack. Whole regions are now succumbing to a single fire. They can have fronts of 15 kilometres, burn for over a week, and destroy several villages in one sitting. Many lives are lost and priceless eco-systems, natural parks containing ancient forests, endangered wildlife and many more casualties.. but the subject is water, and the point I wanted to make..
Where I was living, we piped the water in from an existing well, the water was pure as the driven snow and the best-tasting liquid on the planet. I got in the habit of drinking directly from the source, or filling jugs from there, after reading Victor Schauberger’s books about living water. He maintained that water loses it’s inherent structure and positive energy when it is contained in a pipe. I began to wonder if our manipulation, degradation and dis-respect for this life-giving force, the substance that fuels all life on this planet, is some-how partly responsible for the general disarray we find ourselves in as a civilisation.
My recent return to Ireland has been punctuated by a series of compromises. Most of which I am willing to make, for the privilege of having my people around me and my homeland under my feet, but one compromise I refuse to make is the most simple and fundamental right we have. The right to clean, safe drinking water. Given the state of every other facility under the control of our government, you will excuse me if I lack faith in their ability to provide this simple need.
Please don’t think that I expect perfectly safe drinking water to be pumped to my kitchen sink for free. I understand that all the chemicals required to kill all the bacteria and pollution in our water are going to cost. I understand that we must pay for this service, whether it is indirectly, through taxes or directly, with water rates, just like the rest of the world have to. But I would like a bit more transparency in the supply. I would also question the logic of going to all this trouble, adding all these expensive chemicals, if most people only brush their teeth and flush their toilet with it.. even if most people still drink it, isn’t it incredibly wasteful to use the same standard of water for drinking and washing/flushing. What would an alien species think if they landed on earth to find us using a rapidly depleting and vitally essential liquid in such a wasteful way? I’ll guess that they will rightly conclude that we are dangerously insane as a race. We go to all this trouble, cleaning, pumping, storing and distributing this commodity, then we flush 9 litres of it into the toilet bowl, where it becomes a massive waste problem and the water cycle is complete.. hey presto, what an intelligent species we are.
Recently I have been filling up 5 litre water bottles at my friends house. He has a bore-well, like a lot of rural households in this country, some are shared, others private. There is still some flaws in this solution.. but there isn’t a public spring anywhere around North County Dublin. The level of contamination in these private and semi-private supplies is not closely monitored as far as I can see, but it is the responsibility of the consumer to check what they consume. It isn’t difficult or expensive to get your water tested. What worries me is how few people actually think about what’s in their water, in a time when industrial agriculture is ever-prevalent.. herbicides, pesticides and chemical fertilisers are being sprayed continuously.. some of that will surely make it’s way to the water table.. not to mention the other industries that may be leaking toxic cocktails into our water-table.. It’s time to start thinking about what we are drinking when we turn on the kitchen tap, and what we are giving our children.
Ref: Victor Schauberger: Living Water [on my bookshelf in Goodreads ->]