Generalizations about us don’t always apply to all humans. However, it’s generally recognized and agreed upon that a human body can go two to three days without water and 30 to 40 days without food of any kind. Water is clearly the most important requirement with an average of eight to ten cups of water needed to replenish what the human body loses each day.
Unfortunately, water supplies all over the world are more and more often polluted and thereby a danger to health and a threat to life itself. Western Oregon has been often recognized, due to the state’s forested regions, mountain ranges and dependable and sufficient annual rainfall, as one of those places on the planet whose water supply would remain healthy and drinkable even if the remainder of humankind had to heavily filter the water or desalinate it. That may remain true for places outside of Portland and Salem but not now in Oregon’s “Rose” and “Capital” cities.
Locally, it could cost millions to make Salem’s water potable again. However, some argue that long-term, less costly and much more practical solutions to consider must include phasing out industrial tree plantations that work by clearcutting, chemicals and fertilizers. Industrial logging practices are one of several underlying causes of the toxic blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) outbreak contaminating Detroit Reservoir and North Santiam River. Coupled with climate change, latter day practices destroy otherwise perfect drinking water conditions.
Common knowledge on the subject comes to us from science. Toxic algal blooms thrive in warm, slow moving water contaminated by nutrients and chemicals that assist in their growth. Then, too, clearcut watersheds lose their soil moisture and provide less water during periods of low rainfall while any streams run slower and warmer—often by 2.6 degrees—than in those under normal full-forested conditions. These conditions have been studied and it has been proven that heavily logged watersheds have at least 50 percent or less water in them during dry and drought durations. Thus, algae thrive in nearby lakes and streams.
Another cause for algae come from chemicals and fertilizers liberally used on tree-growing plantations. Applications of herbicides and atrazine always find their way in rivers and lakes. The use of them in Lake Erie brought Toledo, Ohio, to near closure four years ago. Nitrogen fertilizers like urea are most common used in Oregon and are recognized as a chief culprit in turning wonderful watershed water into something that looks awful, tastes awful and can send a person to the hospital and an early grave.
By this point here, the reader must recognize the obvious: The solution is to stop the application of chemicals and fertilizers and industrial scale clearcutting to any area where Oregonians now or later get their drinking water. Timber plantations must be controlled and monitored for compliance with Oregon laws made to address this very serious challenge to our health and safety. The matter is even more urgent at present than at any earlier time in Oregon as climate change is a fact, bringing ever drier conditions in a new, no longer deniable, world we humans have inherited.
Arguably speaking, there probably are some things, perhaps a modern gadget or two, we Oregonians can live without. However, I would argue that clean-tasting, uncontaminated, drinkable, disease-free water is not among those items we can do without. Therefore, it would seem high time that those Oregonians who want to protect drinkable water would let Governor Kate Brown and our legislators (state and federal) know how important it is to them. After all, for the sake of human survivability on planet Earth, this matter falls into the life or death category.