The Gift of Water

by Frannie Belton

“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.”

–– John Muir

Above, John Muir describes the interconnectedness of our natural world.  As humans, we are but one constituent part in the web life. This means that human actions always hold consequences for the system as a whole. The balance of environmental needs and human needs is often the subject of debate. If things tilt too far in one direction, the other direction can suffer—how do we keep things in balance? Who is responsible for advocating for the environment? Who advocates for water? Human life and health are completely dependent upon water, yet the impact of some human activity on water threatens the condition of this absolutely essential natural resource. What we pour on the ground ends up in our water, and what we spew into the sky ends up in our water. Because we are part and parcel of this web, what we do to water, we do to ourselves. Numerous water disputes and crises have made one thing clear:  A water supply in any way fouled contributes negatively to human health.

Those of us who have clean water at the turn of a tap have much to be grateful for. We are richly blessed that we do not need to walk for miles each day to collect water (clean or otherwise) for drinking or cooking or watering crops. The rich blessing—the gift of water—that we enjoy in proximity to the Great Lakes calls for active and vigilant stewardship of this resource.  Consider, for a moment, this gift of water.

The title of these columns, The Gift of Water, holds at least three meanings. The first meaning that comes to mind is that through nature, we receive water as a gift. We residents of the Upper Peninsula enjoy an abundance of fresh water that much of the world cannot even imagine. Do we appreciate our riches?  Do we recognize that nature’s abundant gift is not inexhaustible?

A second meaning that comes to mind is that water itself provides us with many gifts. The most significant gift water gives us is life itself.  Water is essential for human survival—humans can live only a matter of days without water. Another gift of water is food. Neither livestock nor plants are able to grow without water, and absolutely every bite of food we take is dependent upon water. Water also provides us with hydroelectric power, with transportation routes; it provides us with recreation, with aesthetic pleasure, and, since time immemorial, water has been a crucial symbolic element in religious and spiritual ceremonies.

A third meaning is that water can be offered as a gift to those who need it. There are many organizations, including the Northern Great Lakes Water Stewards (NGLWS) that work to provide access to clean water for people who need it. One of the initiatives of the NGLWS is to help our fellow Michiganders in Flint by collecting donations for the Crossroads District Water Response.

While such donations are important and helpful for meeting people’s immediate needs in a crisis, unless genuine efforts are made toward responsible water stewardship by those in decision-making positions, ultimately no amount of money will help.  Our Water Stewards plans are still evolving, and we invite you to bring your enthusiasm and ideas to the group.  Also, please join us for a stream cleanup or tree planting, make a donation for our neighbors in Flint, or attend the community presentations that we sponsor. For more information, find us at

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