Julie Peller PhD, is an environmental chemist (Professor of Chemistry at Valparaiso University ) and she leads the Environmental Ministry at Nativity of Our Savior in Portage IN. Julie has been writing a weekly column for church bulletins for the past ~5 years called the Green Junction and is helping to move the call of Laudato Si to action forward. Her Research Interests are in: Advanced oxidation for aqueous solutions, water quality analyses, emerging contaminants, air quality analyses, Lake Michigan shoreline challenges (Cladophora, water and sediment contaminants), student and citizen participation in environmental work.
We often hear about water in the psalms and readings, reminding us of its beauty and its basis for life. For example, “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. In verdant pastures he gives me repose; beside restful waters he leads me.” All life on earth depends on fresh water and those of us who live in the Great Lakes region are fortunate to live near the world’s largest fresh water reservoir. It is of utmost importance to protect the Great Lakes water through regulations, restoration, effective monitoring/science. Millions of people rely on these magnificent fresh water lakes for their drinking water.
The Great Lakes provide many services in addition to drinking water. Unfortunately, the Great Lakes water and ecosystems are confronted by many challenges, such as invasive species, industrial contamination (toxic metals and others), dissolved chemicals (medications, pesticides), undissolved pollution (plastics), climate change and fuel pipelines/spills. Further, many beach visitors do not realize the importance of natural water bodies and the need to protect them. Along the beaches, garbage is a constant problem, as many people disregard the beautiful waterfronts, especially on holiday weekends. This past Memorial Day weekend, the garbage removed from Virginia Beach totaled 10 tons. If you visit the Lake Michigan beaches after July 4th celebrations, you will find similar shameful levels of littering.
The lack of appreciation of these natural resources can be contrasted to the areas of the country and world where water is in limited supply. In Rajathan, India, residents are experiencing a severe water shortage threatening their ability to survive. Many people are migrating since the crops are not able to grow. In the country, more than 90 major water reservoirs contain less than 20% of their capacity, due to the second lowest rainfall amounts between March and May in 65 years.
Are we treasuring the gift of clean water, paying attention to the factors threatening water quality and ecosystem health? From Psalm 63, “You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water.”