Water of Life

“He shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.”
—Revelation 22:1

IN THE LAST SEVERAL YEARS, several articles have appeared in the news media about the serious problem facing people in the world concerning water availability. The first of these was a report that was issued by the United Nations-sponsored World Water Forum held in Stockholm during the summer of 2001. The August 14, 2001 Los Angeles Times said:

UNITED NATIONS WORLD WATER FORUM

“A report issued Monday at the U.N.-sponsored World Water Forum in Stockholm says that one in three people will not have access to enough water by 2025 and that it is unlikely that traditional agriculture could feed the world’s population by then. Already, bottled drinking water costs more per gallon than gas around the world, and it is bound to become even more precious.

“Water shortages affect about 450 million people in 29 countries, and tensions over water rights in Asia and Africa could erupt into serious clashes if governments don’t find new ways to use existing supplies more efficiently, the report warns.

“‘Water could become the new oil as a major source of conflict,’ Dutch Crown Prince Willem-Alexander, chairman of the 2000 World Water Forum, said after opening the Stockholm conference Monday.

“‘Increasing scarcity, competition and arguments over water in the first quarter of the 21st century will dramatically change the way we value and use water and the way we mobilize and manage water resources,’ he said.

“From clashes over the use of local watering holes, to disagreements between countries over the right to dam a shared river, to corporations’ desire to privatize distribution, water has already become a major source of strife. While few wars have been fought over water outright, political disagreements are intensified when such essential resources become scarce.

“Californians are familiar with the challenges of making a city grow from a desert. Just as Los Angeles had to siphon water from rivers and watersheds hundreds of miles away as its population exploded, rapidly expanding cities in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa are thirsting for adequate supplies for drinking and sanitation.

“‘Despite innovations that have lowered costs of water treatment, more than a billion people still lack safe drinking water,’ said Sandra Postel, director of the Global Water Policy Project based in Amherst, Massachusetts. ‘We’re running as fast as we can just to stay in one place,’ she said.”

The more serious aspect of the report was that rural, agricultural areas are threatened the most. The concern is that there won’t be enough water available to grow enough food.

EXPORTING WATER

At the time that this report was issued, an article appeared in the August 2001 Time magazine entitled “Exporting Fresh Water.” Canada, which has much water, was suggested as an exporting source of water to countries needing it. President George W. Bush was reported as saying “Water will forever be an issue in the United States, particularly the western part” and that he expected to discuss the exporting of Canadian water to the United States with Prime Minister Jean Chr├ętien. This drew an immediate response from Canada’s Environment Minister, David Anderson, who said, “The Prime Minister will tell the President that we have a policy of not exporting water.”

Nevertheless, some Canadian entrepreneurs believe it will happen and have been making plans to ship 132 million gallons of pristine lake water every week in specially lined oil tankers to prospective buyers. A number of schemes were discussed in the article, such as towing icebergs to places in Mexico and building pipelines to transport water. The article concluded by quoting Mr. Coy of Schwab and a Canadian entrepreneur, Gerry White. It said:

“Experts say public-subsidy schemes often give water to farms and industries for as little as $16 an acre-foot when it’s worth as much as $400 to municipal water systems. That encourages uneconomic uses of the precious resource. Water consumption in the United States averages 100 gallons a day per person, nearly three times the European average. Coy predicts that once private buyers and sellers are allowed to determine a market price for water, international trade in the commodity will boom.

“Gerry White of McCurdy Enterprises is preparing for that day and thinks it’s not far off. He’s planning to build a five-mile pipeline to carry water from Gisborne Lake to Newfoundland’s southern coast, then pump it into tanker ships. White estimates it will cost less than a penny a gallon to get water from the lake to his potential buyers. Bulk water now sells for about 2 cents per gallon in the United States. At 66 million gallons a shipload, twice a week, that’s a lot of pennies.”

CHINA’S WATER PROBLEM

A third article was published on March 9, 2003 in the Los Angeles Times, telling of a 60-billion-dollar project in China to divert water from South China to the parched north. A Chinese staff writer for the Los Angeles Times wrote from the village of Luizhuangbeiling in northern China:

“Water is so scarce in this drought-stricken patch of countryside that precipitation is treated like jewels from the sky.

“‘When it rains, we throw plastic sheets on the ground to catch it as it falls—we won’t let a single drop go to waste,’ said Lian Jixiang, head of this village in Shandong province in northeastern China.

“So little rain has fallen so far this year that authorities are calling it the driest season in five decades. Large stretches of northern China have seen riverbeds turned into grazing grounds and fertile fields reduced to dust bowls.

“Not to worry. The Chinese government has a grand plan to change all that, on the scale of the Great Wall, in the spirit of the Great Leap Forward and even more expensive than the Three Gorges Dam.

“Officials call it the South to North Water Diversion Project. It would pump water from the plentiful south to the parched north by redirecting streams from the swollen Yangtze to the shrinking Yellow River. Three canals, two of them about 1,000 miles long each, would cross some of the Earth’s highest plains and displace hundreds of thousands of residents in order to deliver water to at least 39 major cities and about 50 million people.

“Supporters say the mega-project’s benefits would far surpass its projected cost of about 60 billion dollars, more than double the initial price tag for the colossal Three Gorges Dam under construction along the Yangtze in south-central China.

“‘China needs to feed 20% of the world’s population on 7% of its arable land. Much of that land lies in the northern part of the country, and it is running dry,’ said Zhang Ren, a retired Qinghua University engineering professor with a lifelong involvement in the country’s water projects. ‘We have to do this now. We have no other choice.’”

The rest of the article told of the limited publicity given to the project and the problems that may be created. It is considered to be a way to insulate the government against protests by farmers for water scarcity. The project was first envisioned by Mao Tse-tung during the early 1950’s shortly after the Communist revolution. But prohibitive costs and political turmoil stymied the project.

In China the water available for each person is about one quarter of the global average. Northern China dips into one-fifth of the nation’s total supply, yet it is home to one-half of China’s 1.3 billion people. It is expected that by 2030 the water supply per person will be one-fifth of what is now available to the average American. There is much concern about the impact that the project will have on the environment. Water conservation is needed. Also the rapid industrialization of China and growth of its cities may make more of this water available for urban development and industry. The nation’s 900 million farmers can only hope to be secondary beneficiaries of this expensive new enterprise expected to take fifty years for its completion.

A fourth article appeared in the 2003 fall issue of the World Ark, a magazine by Heifer International, a charitable organization that has helped 4.5 million impoverished families through gifts of livestock and training in their care. They asked Sandra Postel, Director of the Global Water Policy Project for the organization Worldwatch Institute in Amherst, Massachusetts to write an article for them entitled, “Trouble Waters”. She is a recognized top authority on freshwater issues. She has written for Scientific American and is the author of a recently published book Rivers For Life. She said:

THE IMPORTANCE OF WATER

“We see it everywhere. It’s the rain and the rivers and the lakes. In rich nations, we turn the tap and out it pours. Some of us spend thousands of dollars installing automatic systems in our lawns so that it will keep the grass green all summer long.

“It’s in everything we eat and it’s used to make almost everything we buy. Yet we think about it hardly more than the air we breathe.

“It’s water. It’s the basis of life. It comprises more than 70 percent of the human body.

“And it, like so much of the planet, is taken for granted and endangered.

“How can this be when Earth’s surface is covered with it? The oceans are vast, but salty. Less than 3 percent of Earth’s water is fresh, and two-thirds of that is locked up in glaciers and ice caps. Only a tiny share—less than one-hundredth of one percent of the planet’s water—is both fresh and renewed each year by the sun-powered hydrologic cycle. That finite supply hasn’t increased over the millennia, but our demands on it have. In many places, water use now exceeds the sustainable supply, causing rivers to run dry and underground water tables to drop. And unchecked pollution makes the available supply less usable.

“The United Nations has designated 2003 as the International Year of Freshwater in an attempt to focus attention on what is clearly one of society’s biggest challenges: how to meet human needs for water without destroying the ecosystems that support life itself.

“Water is not a commodity like copper or oil. It’s a fundamental life support. Rivers, lakes, wetlands and other freshwater ecosystems are not just sources of water; they are habitats for a wide variety of plant and animal species.

“These ecosystems provide essential services for human societies—moderating floods and droughts, purifying water and sustaining fisheries.

“Freshwater has no substitutes for most of its uses. It’s essential for growing crops, for manufacturing and for drinking, cooking and other household functions.

“The world’s water problems have surged during the last ten years, and awareness of them has grown, but the problems are far outpacing the implementation of solutions.

“The world is entering an unprecedented period of risks to food security, the environment, the world economy and social and political stability as water grows scarcer in all parts of the planet. The wild card of global climate change exacerbates these dangers.”

FACTORS AFFECTING WATER SUPPLY

After establishing the importance of water to life for mankind, the author listed several concerns.

  1. Population growth is fastest in some of the world’s driest regions.
  2. Per capita, water demands are rising.
  3. As supplies tighten, farmers in particular, will feel the squeeze.
  4. Many poor farmers lack access to irrigation water.
  5. More than one billion people lack even the most rudimentary delivery systems for clean water. This is responsible for the death of three million people every year in developing countries, mostly children.
  6. Fresh water is being used up. (Rivers feeding the Aral sea drying up are cited as an example) and water tables are falling.
  7. Competition for freshwater increasingly is leading to social instability.

Encompassing all these difficulties is the necessity of protecting Earth’s overloaded ecosystem. This is a matter often ignored by most people. Yet a healthy ecosystem is important to maintaining freshwater supplies, food for humans and wildlife, and providing wetlands to filter and break down pollutants. Also they provide homes and breeding sites for wildlife.

WHAT TO DO

Then she answered the question of what to do, and writes:

“The situation is not hopeless. Solutions do exist to the problems posed by the depletion of freshwater supplies.

  1. “It is important that people grow to understand and value the work that rivers, floodplains, wetlands and other ecosystems do. Freshwater ecosystem services are worth hundreds of billions of dollars yearly. They particularly benefit the poor, who often depend directly on nature’s services for their livelihoods. Some places are taking steps to preserve these services.”

After citing examples of work being done she cites point 2:

  1. “Achieving universal access to safe drinking water and sanitation would save millions of lives yearly and prevent debilitating illness. Such action would have huge economic benefits, as well, by reducing the high costs resulting from that loss of life and loss of productivity due to poor health.”

She mentions the goals set by the United Nations to achieve this access which is to reduce to half by 2015 those lacking safe drinking water. Even this goal will require effective leadership. Continuing she says:

  1. “Provide access to irrigation water to reduce rural poverty. Access to a minimum amount of water for the production of crops is essential to helping millions escape poverty. About 2.8 billion people live on less than two dollars a day, and 800 million of these face chronic hunger.
  2. “Double water productivity. Projected rates of population and economic growth during the next few decades, along with the deterioration of many freshwater ecosystems, mean people will have to do more with less water.
  3. “Achieve good governance over water.”

After listing these major steps to be taken, with many comments explaining their necessity she concluded her article by saying:

“Implementing the measures above would take enormous political and social will. It would revolutionize water use and management.

“Refusing or neglecting to take steps to protect the world’s supply of freshwater, however, poses far greater risk than trying to reform water policies.

“Only fundamental change will solve the world’s growing water problems. These changes require that scientists, engineers, conservationists, policy-makers and citizens work together. They require leadership from many quarters.

“And they require action now, because it may turn out that time to reverse the threatening trends underway is even more limited than water itself.”

THE NEED FOR EFFECTIVE LEADERSHIP

We note that one of the requirements to implement this program so necessary to the world’s welfare requires leadership from many quarters. This leadership will come in time to save the world from further disaster when Christ’s kingdom is set up and appointments are made of earthly representatives by Jesus and his church in that kingdom. (Ps. 45:16) That, with the pouring out of God’s Holy Spirit upon all flesh (Joel 2:28), will make possible the understanding and necessity of the measures taken to save earth’s society.

There is an abundance of water upon planet Earth, for so it was designed to support billions of people and other living creatures. At present, with sin and selfishness, water goes to waste. There are numerous examples throughout the Scriptures that demonstrate how God can control the weather. One of these evidences is foretold concerning God’s kingdom. Those refusing to worship him, “upon them shall be no rain.”—Zech. 14:17

GOD SUPPLIES FRESH WATER

It is God who can set in motion a cycle of distilling water from the oceans with solar energy and causing it to come down as rain in the proper places. This is why in telling of the kingdom blessings, Isaiah says “the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose.” (Isa. 35:1) Instead of rain falling on the oceans, it will fall on the land that needs that water. It is a simple matter for God to control the hydrologic cycle that brings mankind freshwater daily.

We do not think often of the necessity of certain steps taken by God in preparing the Earth for human habitation. In the first creative epoch he created the vast amount of water Earth needs to sustain life. In the second creative epoch God separated the waters, “God said, Let there be a firmament [atmosphere] in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.” (Gen. 1:6) This made possible the evaporation of water into the atmosphere above it and in the form of vapor it could be carried towards land. This careful planning by God in which he made replenishment of freshwater a simple task is the basis for sustained life upon Earth.

Further, as rain falls it runs off into rivers to carry it into the sea and the process is repeated. Rivers supply freshwater as they flow, whether above ground or underground. This naturally occurring event has been used by God to illustrate how he will give life to everyone on Earth. As our theme text says, flowing from ‘the throne of God and of the Lamb’ was ‘a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal.’ What a joy it will be for mankind to have natural water as clear as crystal to drink to sustain life, and especially to have this spiritual water of life to enable them to live forever. It will be a glorious day indeed when this promise is fulfilled in its entirety. All will rejoice and be glad. Praise be to his Holy Name.



Dawn Bible Students Association
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