EPPN Creation Care Series: Clean Water
Water is one of life’s most vital resources. Water pollution, however, is devastating to the environment and to the health and well-being of people in every nation and community. The federal government invests annually in water pollution mitigation and water treatment; however, the current funding is not enough to conduct even routine maintenance and clean up pollution.
The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCA) releases an Infrastructure Report Card every four years, and in the most recent report in 2017, the United States scored a D on drinking water. A great deal of the low score is due to the increased water pollution and an aging drinking water infrastructure.
Proposed regulatory changes at the Environmental Protection Agency would roll back protections of permanent waterways and temporary or ad hoc waterways that feed into our major rivers and lakes and serve as drinking water sources. Removing protections for permanent waterways would expose them to runoff and other pollution from oil and gas production, mining, construction, and agriculture. This deregulation removes the responsibility from farmers and mining, drilling, or construction industries, and passes the burden resulting from those industries’ activities to all people and animals who depend on water downstream. While it may not feasible for family farms to bear the full financial burden of increased regulation, federal funds could be used to help family farms and corporations afford to clean their own pollution.
As family farms struggle to survive, it is important to recognize their benefit to their communities and to find collaborative ways to ensure environmental protection and financial sustainability. An important aspect of this is to find a balance between minimizing runoff from family farms through mitigation while also implementing programs to address the cumulative impact of runoff from all family farms. One common criticism of the Obama Administration’s policy was that drainage ditches on family farms would be regulated the same as rivers passing industrial mining sites. The two types of water passages are not the same and may require different approaches. Family farms represent a critically important part of the nation’s food security and as a result, unlike large corporate entities, a different balance between private mitigation and public cleanup efforts may be necessary.
It is important to remember the very real danger and slippery slope that water pollution causes. It was just a few decades ago that President Nixon signed into law the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency because we allowed our rivers and lakes to be polluted to the point that rivers caught on fire. Decades ago the urgency and necessity of protecting water brought bipartisan support from every corner of the country.
In The Episcopal Church, we collectively rely on the life-giving water of Baptism and individually, we rely on clean water to sustain our daily life and to grow our food. Water, because of its necessity, should be a human right given to all of God’s children. The Episcopal Church, through the General Convention, has tasked the Office of Government Relations with advocating for policies that ensure accessibility of clean water for all people.
We recognize that ensuring access to clean water cannot be achieved through a single approach. Therefore, we have been called to work on public policy that improves funding for water treatment and infrastructure, protections for water in oceans, lakes, and streams from point or indirect sources, and resiliency to extreme weather and population increases.
Prayer and Reflection:
We thank you, Almighty God, for the gift of water.
Over it the Holy Spirit moved in the beginning of creation.
Through it you led the children of Israel out of their bondage
in Egypt into the land of promise. In it your Son Jesus
received the baptism of John and was anointed by the Holy
Spirit as the Messiah, the Christ, to lead us, through his death
and resurrection, from the bondage of sin into everlasting life.
-The Book of Common Prayer
How does your church community rely on clean water?
What is particularly special about clean water to both our faith and our pursuit for environmental justice?