Opinion: Water of Life

Today many Christians are celebrating Easter, the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Jesus, whether you view him as historical figure, prophet or messiah, used many images in his teaching. One was water.

John 4:13-14 talks of Jesus’ encounter with the woman of Samaria at the well, and Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again. But anyone who drinks the water I give them will never be thirsty. In fact, the water I give them will become a spring of water in them. It will flow up into eternal life.”

Water is a precious resource. Just this week there was news of California entering the fourth year of drought. Governor Jerry Brown has introduced strict conservation measures to reduce water usage by 25%. California produces a third of the fresh vegetables consumed by Americans, and prices in shops across the country are already reflecting the drought.

Global warming has brought this on. The snowpack in the Sierra Nevada mountains which supplies the water California needs is at a record low. The water California needs for households, crops and industry is not available. Sacrifices will have to be made.

There was also recent news of record temperatures, perhaps the highest ever, being recorded in Antarctica at 63.5 degrees Fahrenheit.  Indeed, 46 out of 235 nations have set heat records, or matched existing records, since 2010.

I welcome the five Green Laws that we are proposing in our manifesto. The Nature Bill will “set natural capital, biodiversity, clean air and water targets, and empower the Natural Capital Committee to recommend actions to meet these targets.” I’m glad clean water targets are included. We must protect our natural resources for future generations.

Water is important not only as a resource, but now as a commodity. China, India, Nepal and Pakistan are tussling over water run-off from the Himalayans. China has quite a few dam projects on the Tibetan plateau which have caused controversy and concern.

Water also provides power. Jesus spoke of the spiritual power of water, but the earthly power of water is now being harnessed as never before. The world’s first tidal lagoon project was recently announced by Lib Dem minister Ed Davey. This will greatly increase our capacity of renewable energy. Micro-generators run by water power can now be dropped in streams in deprived areas of Africa to provide electricity to villages.

But getting back to John chapter 4, it is important to notice that Jesus, as a Jew, was speaking to a Samaritan woman, a Gentile. Two strikes against her: her gender and her race. This story speaks to inclusion and equality. Jesus accepted the woman as she was, and treated her with dignity and compassion.

Water is a universal need, and access to clean water a universal right. Let us use our resources wisely, and as we do so may we further equality and empower humanity.

Happy Easter!

* Kirsten Johnson was the PPC for Oxford East in the 2017 General Election. She is a pianist and composer at www.kirstenjohnsonpiano.com.

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  • John Roffey 5th Apr '15 - 10:40am

    Interesting article which is supported in a broader sense by:

    Faith in politics may be taboo, but we still crave a bit of morality

    “Traditionally the Conservative Party had a strong element of noblesse oblige. Alec Douglas-Home’s mother was heard to remark: “I think it is so good of Alec to do Prime Minister.” Where is that element now? A few do still enter politics, in part out of a sense of duty, but where is the vision of an Edmund Burke, perhaps the politician with the most deeply rooted and consistent moral sense in our history, who could legitimately be claimed by Conservatives as much as progressives? ”


    On the same subject of water – did anyone see the TV program that showed how the petroleum corporations are buying up large reserves of water in the US? Presumably these corporations have recognised that the days of oil are numbered and since the supplies of fresh water are limited and also an absolute necessity for everyone – they know that water is an even better ‘product’ to monopolise and it will be so indefinitely.

  • Excellent article by Kirsten.
    I would welcome more articles like this with a perspective above and beyond Westminster gossip.

    Kirsten notes that —
    ” Micro-generators run by water power can now be dropped in streams in deprived areas of Africa to provide electricity to villages.”

    Not just in Africa of course. We can do it here in the UK as well.
    I am an enthusiastic supporter of Ed Davey’s tidal lagoon project but renewable water-powered electricity generation does not have to be massive and require £ millions in investment.
    When local mini-hydro electricity is as common as solar panels on a suburban roof ŵe will be really getting somewhere, we might even catch up with Africa. 🙂

  • Kirsten johnson 5th Apr '15 - 5:45pm

    Thank you both for reading, and for your thoughtful comments.

    Yes, John R. I worry about water resources being bought up by companies. Water is a natural resource that is for all of us to share. As such, it would come under our plans to set up a National Capital Committee to regulate resources for the common good.

    Yes, John T. you are absolutely right. Micro-hydro generators are being used in this country and I would welcome them becoming as common as solar panels. I had a chance to tour a cutting-edge eco home recently (made of hemp and natural materials with solar power, ground source heat pump, rainwater for flushing toilets, etc), and I came away wishing that all new builds could be completely self-sufficient with extra energy fed back into the national grid. The technology is developed. If we put government initiative behind all new houses not only being carbon neutral but completely eco in all materials used, we could start a housing revolution. It would mitigate using some green belt if the houses themselves had turf or sedum roofs, green garden walls, were built into the sides of hills, etc. New houses could become part of the natural landscape.

  • “…all new builds could be completely self-sufficient with extra energy fed back into the national grid”

    Quite so, Kirsten. It need not cost the Government a single penny. Just improve building regulations to require all new build to conform to the design you set out.

    As you say — the technology is already there. All we need is the political will.

  • Many aid projects do not last. Approximately a third of the boreholes sunk in the UN Decade of water 1980-1990 failed because of bentonite entering the screen -comment by BGS Hydrogeolists. Many irrigation dams have silted up far quicker than expected due to poor design, some have had their lifespan reduced from 100 to 4 years. If one looks at data collected by the rural water supplies network, anywhere from 10-60% of boreholes fail. In many areas urbanisation is leading to pollution of water supplies.

    A major task is to look at what has gone wrong and learn from mistakes.

    If one looks at Africa , satellite data shows there is extensive greening. Increased carbon dioxide increases root depth which reduces drought. Many nurseries increase CO2 up to 1000ppm to increase plant growth.

    In many developing countries irrigation uses up most water but can be only 5% efficient. Over irrigation can cause salinisation.

    What are needed are changes to farming and irrigation in order to increase efficiency of water use.

  • Philip Thomas 5th Apr '15 - 7:37pm

    We urgently need to develop cheap desalinisation technology.

  • Kirsten johnson 5th Apr '15 - 7:48pm

    Interesting data, Charlie. Yes, definitely need change to farming and irrigation techniques worldwide to increase efficiency of water use. And yes, Philip, I agree that cheap desalination technology needs to be developed.

  • Kirsten Johnson
    The energy requirements for desalinisation make it feasible for rich countries only. The energy used and carbon dioxide produced will be massive. Ibn Khaldoun of Tunisia in about 1400 stated that the arab invasion had altered climate because they had destroyed irrigation schemes which resulted in desertification in places . What needs to be analysed is how planting the correct type of vegetation in certain climates can, increase storage of rain in the soil and the groundwater. By changing the albedo, light reflectance vegetation may actually increase rainfall in certain locations.

    Of all the money spent on water projects since 1945 , I am not sure the poorest have benefited the most. Large projects have enabled vast corruption to occur and contractors have made handsome profits often building over priced shoddy structures in the wrong location. Schumacher’s Intermediate technology I believe actually benefits the poorest the most as it avoids large projects which become sources of corruption and obscene profits for many contractors.

  • Philip Thomas 6th Apr '15 - 4:33pm

    @Charlie – that is why we need technological research into *cheap* desalinisation- I don’t just mean cheap in money terms, but also in energy terms.

  • ” Schumacher’s Intermediate technology I believe actually benefits the poorest the most as it avoids large projects which become sources of corruption and obscene profits for many contractors.”

    Agree with you on this one, Charlie. Small really can be beautiful. Appropriate (or Intermediate) Technology within the means and under the control of local communities will improve the chances of the poor rather than enriching remote foreign share-holders and oligarchs.

  • Phillip Thomas
    Basic energy calculations . Water has high specific capacity and process which requires it’s temperature to be raised requires large amounts of energy.

    When considering technology one needs to assess the appropriateness. Using expensive diesel powered pumps for many irrigation schemes is an obvious example: the materials and energy needs to b sourced locally and cheap.

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