06/16/2014 03:38 pm ET Updated Aug 16, 2014

The Legacy of Water

It's difficult for most of us to remember or be moved by a lecture. As storytelling beings, we tend to remember stories and their details. Occasionally a story may open us to a new perspective that foreshadows a change in our values and behaviors. It follows then if we want to make an impact on future generations, we would likely be more successful if we share our personal memories and memorable stories.

We all know that water is basic to life -- that in fact our bodies are made up of 50 to 65 percent water -- that clean water is at risk planet-wide (note the 2014 water contamination in West Virginia) making what we've long taken for granted a scarce and endangered commodity. We are plagued with floods, droughts, and tsunamis. Ismail Serageldin, World Bank VP for Environmental Affairs, predicts that the wars of the 21st century will be fought over water, not oil.

Water, water, everywhere, And not a drop to drink. -- Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Consider the World Health Organization's (WHO) statistics: 1.1 billion people have no access to any type of improved drinking source of water; that many millions walk miles daily for clean well water; that refugees, especially children, die everyday from dehydration -- while we let water freely run in our kitchens and bathrooms without a thought for its value. We remain unconscious at best and entitled at worst as we waste the elixir of life.

Water is the driver of nature. -- Leonardo da Vinci

So is it possible for us to affect this terrible legacy we're leaving the future? The best way I know is to tap my memories and share stories with my grandchildren hoping they will value water before it's too late.

Here are some of my favorite water memories:

Born into a water sign, Scorpio, it's no wonder that I love being in and around water: Viewing the unique blue of Crater Lake in Oregon; canoeing in the pristine Minnesota Boundary Waters-boiling lake water for tea at the evening campfire; watching the sun paint the clouds as it sets in the Gulf, feeling awe at the power of the Flaming Gorge Dam in Utah, the Pacific Ocean and Lake Superior; enjoying "the lakes" in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, Minnesota; listening to the sound I make trailing my hand in the water from a rowboat; sitting at the creek's edge feeling the spray as wind and water play; riding my first bike around Lake Harriet everyday during my 10th summer.

Here are two of my favorite water stories:

We lived in northern California during the drought of the late 1970s. Our water was rationed. We learned from neighbors the water-saving strategy of "flushing with a friend." One afternoon my 7- and 9-year-old kids came home from school and proclaimed their plan to participate in the family's water preservation efforts: they wouldn't bathe anymore!

We never know the worth of water till the well runs dry. -- Thomas Jefferson

One afternoon I took a dying friend for a ride around the Minneapolis lakes. We stopped at the southern shore of Lake Calhoun. I opened the sunroof and the waning autumn sun warmed the tops of our heads as we sat -- each with our own thoughts -- silently watching hundreds of ducks playing at the water's edge before flying south to their winter homes. We'd talked a lot as we drove, but the twenty minutes or so of silence at the lake had a different quality. His wife told me later that he'd said that afternoon was the best he'd had in a long time. For me, too, and the water was more than just the setting!

We forget that the water cycle and the life cycle are one. -- Jacques Cousteau

Principles of Practice:

1. Take some time to reflect and write about your own water memories and favorite stories.

2. Choose the person or persons you want to share these memories and stories with.

3. Begin your letter explaining the context of the importance of water specifically for this time in history. You may want to share how blessed you feel for the privilege of having an abundance of water. Share your story(ies) and memories. Conclude your legacy letter with a blessing.

4. You might want to follow up your letter with a conversation in which they share their water stories with you.

May you and your loved ones be responsible stewards of our planet and always enjoy water, the elixir of life. -- Rachael Freed

NEW: Webinar Workshop September 23, "Writing Love Letters to our Children." Contact Rachael for more information and registration

Your Legacy Matters is now available everywhere. 2012 editions also available of Women's Lives, Women's Legacies, Passing Your Beliefs and Blessings to Future Generations, The Legacy Workbook for the Busy Woman, Heartmates: A Guide for the Partner and Family of the Heart Patient, and The Heartmates Journal. (All legacy books are also available as pdf's on

Senior Fellow at the University of Minnesota's Center for Spirituality and Healing, Rachael is a clinical social worker and adult educator. She provides programs, workshops, and training for financial, health, and religious organizations focused on legacy principles and practices. She has seven grandchildren. Her home is Minneapolis, Minn.