“Every time I slip beneath the surface, I feel a spiritual connection to the earth and a deep reverence for water. I realize that I am swimming through the very essence of the planet. The water embraces me and I get to share, through my photographs and films, a breathtaking world few people will ever experience for themselves.”
For the first time in history, fresh water has become a finite resource. Many experts agree that, without significant changes in water policy, wars of the 21st century may be fought, not over oil, but for control of clean water. I live over the most abundant aquifer on the planet, yet my neighbors scarcely understand where their water comes from or how they might be unintentionally polluting that scarce resource. Ask a child in North Florida where their water comes from and they will tell you “the tap.” Somehow they have lost the real connection to the water that flows underground between the grains of sand or through vast cave tunnels that I call my workplace.
We look for life in space by searching for water, yet we have taken our own for granted. Earth is a water planet, reflecting a unique aquamarine blue into the vastness of space. Yet less than 3 percent of the water on this planet is fresh and most of that is locked up in ice. Less than 1% of the water supply on earth can be used as drinking water. There is nothing more precious than usable fresh water and nothing is shrinking faster as we overpopulate this big blue orb.
After leading an incredible life filled with great adventures around the world, I decided it was important to put the pieces together for people and help them understand that all we have wrought upon the surface of our land will be returned to us to drink.
On a local level, we can all take small actions to conserve and protect water resources. North Americans use 5 times more water than Europeans and many times more than the rest of humanity. Our wasteful actions include our love affair with a golf-course style lawn, consumer choices and inefficiencies within our homes. Our contribution to pollution comes through action at home and work and a disconnect with our water footprint. We wantonly use up bottled water without recognizing that it takes five bottles to make one and even more to deal with the trash.
On a regional level, we have somehow become oblivious about where our food and consumer goods originate. The glut of the last several decades has led to habits that use and pollute water on a grand scale.
Globally, we have forgotten that many people are not as fortunate as we are. Millions of women spend their entire day walking on dangerous roads to fetch water for their families. They become the victims of desperation and miss out on the opportunity for education and advancement. They tend to their children who are sick from water tainted with toxic chemicals and dangerous microbes. They do whatever they need to do to nourish their children, and their hopelessness leads to global conflict and unrest.
Yet even with these dire observations, I have to remain optimistic about our ability to understand the issues and do something about it. We’re in the 11th hour, yet it only takes collective will and action to move towards a more harmonious and sustainable future.
My goal with the We Are Water Project is to help people learn about their local watershed and promote general water literacy. I want people to understand where their water comes from, how they might be polluting it and how they can conserve it for future generations. With knowledge comes power and change and I believe when people are better connected with their water resources, they will want to do something about it. Most importantly, I want to inspire people to have a love affair with water. If you swim, dive or paddle in it, you’ll want to do it again. We will protect what we love and understand and if everyone understands that our bodies are 70 percent water and our planet is 70 percent water, we will also recognize that We Are Water.
To learn about how to save water: WeAreWaterProject.com