Two thirds of the Earth’s fresh water is locked up in the polar ice caps so pour that out of your meager 1/2 cup. You should now have about 3 tablespoonsful left. Most of that represents groundwater; much of it is quite deep and inaccessible. So pour out 2 more tablespoonsful representing groundwater. Now get an eyedropper and begin extracting the water representing moisture in the soil and atmospheric vapor. Stop extracting when surface tension draws together one last drop. Place that last drop on your tongue and enjoy! It represents the easily accessible surface water, our lakes and streams.
We Midwesterners are blessed with abundant fresh water. We practically qualify as the Earth’s Fort Knox of fresh water. With our “Land of 10,000 Lakes,” the mighty Mississippi, and especially the Great Lakes, we lay claim to over 1/5 of that precious last drop you just swallowed. About 85% of North America’s entire surface fresh water is in our neighborhood of the continent. We’re stewards of one of the Earth’s most precious commodities.
That’s what makes the following situation so confounding. Tar sands oil, arguably the dirtiest of fossil fuels, are being extracted in Alberta, Canada. Pipelines full of this fuel, that’s been thinned with carcinogenic chemicals, already crisscross the Midwest. Several up-grades and expansions are in the works including plans to triple the capacity of line 61 running through the center of Wisconsin.
As fresh water becomes increasingly precious, our addiction to fossil fuels may leave future generations scratching their heads. “Why did our ancestors risk fouling irreplaceable fresh water to access a polluting fuel when new clean energy sources were at hand?” they may wonder. Fossil fuels have helped build a prosperous society but just ask any Californian, so has clean water. In 2015 which is more precious - water or oil? The choice is simple. Our very lives depend on abundant clean water here on the only planet we’ll ever call home forever…Earthbound.”