March 22nd marks World Water Day, when billions of people around the world will celebrate the gift that sustains all life:
This year, the focus for World Water Day is groundwater, the invisible but essential source of water. Groundwater provides drinking water and irrigation for agriculture -- roughly 40% of water used for irrigation comes from groundwater aquifers.(1) According to UN World Water Day, agriculture is the largest consumer of the world's freshwater resources, and more than one-quarter of energy used globally is expended on food production and supply. Feeding a global population that is expected to reach 9 billion people by 2050 will require a 60% increase in food production…which is going to use a lot of water. Pesticides and fertilizers used in agriculture exacerbate the problem. We can all do our part by reducing the use of pesticides and fertilizers, reducing food waste in general, and rethinking what food we eat and where it comes from.
So, how can we engage in the global movement to protect groundwater, right here in the Chesapeake?
Together, we can rethink the way we interact with the land on which we live, worship, attend school or work. Are we applying fertilizers to grass needlessly? Where are we buying our food from and are we supporting farmers who thoughtfully steward their land? Plant trees to encourage filtering of the air and supporting a healthy ecosystem.
In Maryland, House Bill 1031/Senate Bill 791, “Maryland the Beautiful Act,” lays an ambitious goal of protecting 40% of land by 2040 and stipulates three funding programs to actualize that goal. Conserving land would limit harmful land uses that could pollute groundwater. We call on all Marylanders to urge their state delegates and senators to support this bill. Click here to obtain contact information for your state representatives and call them using our phone script to urge them to pass this bill. It is a small act, to make that call, but if we don't do it, how will our elected officials be our voice?
Most of the world’s large aquifers cross international boundaries – much like the Chesapeake Bay Watershed crosses 6 states and DC. Our strategies for engaging the faith community across multiple states and municipalities to work collaboratively to protect shared rivers and streams can serve as a model for scaled up approaches with internationally-shared water resources. We must tackle this here in the Chesapeake so that we can demonstrate the power people have to effect change.
There are other changes brewing in state legislatures, too, and Word Water Day is a great opportunity to share these with you. In Pennsylvania, a constitutional amendment was passed in the 1970s that enshrined environmental rights for state citizens. Maryland aims to replicate that with its own Environmental Human Rights Amendment, House Bill 596/ Senate Bill 783. If passed, the amendment would become a ballot measure in this fall’s general statewide election. Read our testimony on this bill here, co-signed by 12 other faith institutions and some conferences. Maryland Catholics for Our Common Home secured 500+ signatures representing 30 churches in support of this bill. Join them and sign the petition here to support this bill. And check out this wonderful Op-Ed written by new board member, Rebecca Rehr, published in the Baltimore Sun about protecting these rights for young people, so many of whom worry deeply about their future.
This session, Maryland is also pursuing protections against PFA's (or “forever chemicals”), invasive species retail restrictions, and many others. To become an engaged advocate at the state level, click here to register as an IPC Advocacy Volunteer. We also need help tracking regulations in Pennsylvania, Virginia, and DC, so email [email protected] if you are interested in playing a leadership role in our advocacy efforts.
World Water Day will be hosting a webinar on March 22nd, “Ecosystem Restoration: Restoring Freshwater,” particularly relevant to us here in the Chesapeake. Let us all take a moment on March 22nd to brainstorm changes we want to make in our own lives that will help restore clean water for future generations. Then, take those ideas to your congregation, your neighborhood, your family, your friends. We all have roles to play – big and small – in protecting the world’s waters.
(1) Siebert, S., et.al. “Groundwater use for irrigation – a global inventory,” Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, October 12, 2010.
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