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The Global Drinking Water Crisis That Is Hitting Close to Your Home

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This week, I spent about 20 minutes on HuffPost Live chatting with Alyona Minkovski about the global crisis threatening drinking water. That phrase -- global crisis -- seems to desensitize people, unfortunately. When I tell you that one in five people around the world lacks access to safe drinking water, you're likely to find that unfortunate, but you're not likely to assume that this statistic affects you. So, perhaps I should start over.

Yesterday, I spent about 20 minutes on HuffPost Live chatting with Alyona Minkovski about the local crisis that threatens your drinking water. If you live in Alabama, Georgia, Maryland, Arkansas or New York, and certainly if you live in West Virginia or North Carolina, you know how tenuous and precious our water supplies are -- or you should.

Climate change, extreme energy extraction methods and preventable accidents spurred by loosening restrictions mean that more of us in more parts of the U.S. can't find water that's safe for drinking, cooking and bathing, or we can't find test results to reliably prove our water is safe. That's become painfully apparent to the people of West Virginia, where the governor is now stepping back from his earlier assurances about the safety of drinking water after a chemical spill into the Elk River.

The ways in which we test water safety contribute to this distrust. For example, in Eden, North Carolina, where contaminants from a Duke Energy coal ash dump are still leaching into the Dan River, the government is using instantaneous testing to ascertain water safety levels. Instantaneous testing is exactly what it sounds like; officials dip a glass jar at the surface of the water and pull up a small sample. Whatever they get in that jar at that moment and at the surface of the river is what they use to determine the health of the entire water column. That approach makes little sense when the people who will consume, cook with and bathe in that water will do so for many, many instants. Alternatively, cumulative testing is far more indicative of what we should know about the chemicals in our water. By absorbing contaminants over time, we are sampling not just from the surface, but at all levels of the water column.

Next week, I'll be on Cape Cod talking about emerging technologies that will fingerprint, monitor and help reduce water pollution. Scott Smith, Water Defense chief scientist and founder of OPFLEX Technology, and I will hold a town hall meeting at Cape Cod Community College. The event is open to the public, and I hope you'll come out to learn more about a global crisis that matters where you live, and what we should be doing in response.

Get involved: http://www.waterdefense.org