Water everywhere, only one drop to drink

Published 1:39 pm Saturday, January 22, 2005

By By JOHN EBY / Niles Daily Star
Sure, water covers 70 percent of the earth's surface.
But if you could somehow pour it all in a two-liter bottle, the proportion left for the world's drinking and daily use, including industry and agriculture, would be one drop.
Ninety-seven percent of the world supply is salt water, to just 3 percent fresh water. And some of that is not liquid, but in polar ice caps, in glaciers and in the atmosphere. Of the groundwater and water in lakes, streams and rivers, "a lot of it is locked up where we can't access it."
An AmeriCorps volunteer for the Michigan Groundwater Stewardship Program, Schreurs, of Kalamazoo, covers Allegan and Van Buren counties from her office in Paw Paw.
She began her one-year term last October.
Schreurs grew up in upstate New York and graduated from Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa, in environmental studies.
In Arizona people are depleting aquifers 10 times faster than they can be recharged by rainwater. One Midwest aquifer has been depleted by a volume of water comparable to the size of Lake Erie.
Groundwater fills porous spaces in soil, which she demonstrated with a sponge and an aquarium layered with different types of soil.
The Michigan Groundwater Stewardship Program seeks to prevent pollution.
Cold spots in lakes are indicative of underwater springs feeding in groundwater.
A third concern the Groundwater Stewardship Program seeks to address is abandoned wells.
Nitrates in drinking water causes problems for "blue babies" and older people with low immune systems. "It's important to have your water tested annually, just to make sure there aren't pollutants in your water because you may not be able to see it, taste it or smell it," she said.
Rotarians peppered her with questions about irrigation depletion.
Bill Livingston's pet peeve is the "enormous amount of salt" spread on roads to clear snow. "It goes directly into our streams." As an insurance agent, he notices when the roads are so slippery that drivers must slow down and be more cautious, accident claims decline. "But salt those roads, get their speeds back up, here come the accident reports. We could get along without salt and cope with it as part of nature."
Schreurs spoke as the guest of city Economic Development Director Sandra Gower.
Gower said the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has started developing stormwater regulations which are already in effect in areas more urban than Dowagiac, such as Kalamazoo.
On the salt issue, Gower said Iowa City joined the movement to sand, but it clogged city storm sewers. "When I lived in Sioux City, across the border in South Dakota, they don't put salt down and do very little plowing. But the sand runs off into fields."
Dave Groner said the Grand Traverse Rotary gave $5 million to preserving the quality of the Great Lakes and is having a symposium in mid-February.