We are a small Episcopal Church on the banks of the Rappahannock in Port Royal, Virginia. We acknowledge that we gather on the traditional land of the first people of Port Royal, the Nandtaughtacund, and we respect and honor with gratitude the land itself, the legacy of the ancestors, and the life of the Rappahannock Tribe. Our mission statement is to do God’s Will in all that we do.

Season of Creation – Water

We have taken the five Sundays readings in the Season of Creation and highlighted a specific environmental area which we will cover weekly. (This week, water ) How is this area affecting us ? What can we do at St. Peter’s and individually to improve our use of them ? We have added related scriptures.

Focus on water in the Bible

1. Creation – Water is a primal force of creation . The Old Testament create story describes the earth as nothing but darkness but with the Spirit of God “hovering over the waters.”

2. Cleansing -The story of Noah shows God cleansing the earth with a great flood. Water sometimes symbolizes the spiritual cleansing that comes with the acceptance of God’s offer of salvation ( Ezek 36:25 ; Eph 5:26 ; Heb 10:22 ). In fact, in Ephesians 5:26, the “water” that does the cleansing of the bride, the church, is directly tied in with God’s Word, of which it is a symbol. The story of Noah shows God cleansing the earth with a great flood. In John 4:10-15, part of Jesus’ discourse with the Samaritan woman at the well, he speaks metaphorically of his salvation as “living water” and as “a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

This painting represents Jesus as the truth and was painted by Troy Mulvien Mardigan, an indigenous Australian. From the artist: “The river represents Jesus as the living water. It is flowing from the foot of the cross towards new life. The flowers represent new life. He is the water of the dry land and the green land. On the top of the cross is the omega symbol – He is the beginning and the end.”

3. Rebirth – Water is very present in Baptism. Baptism means immersion or bath in Greek. The immersion cleanses the person of sin and provides rebirth into Christian life. In both the Old and New Testaments, the word “water” is used for salvation and eternal life, which God offers humankind through faith in his Son ( Isa 12:3 ; 55:1 ; Rev 21:6 ; Revelation 22:1 Revelation 22:2 Revelation 22:17 ).

Nicodemus understood Jesus that one must have two births to enter the Kingdom of God – one’s natural birth in which water plays a major role and the birth by the Spirit to be the supernatural birth of being “born again” or regenerated.

4. Troublesome times – The word “water” is used in a variety of metaphorical ways in Scripture. It is used to symbolize the troublesome times in life that can and do come to human beings, especially God’s children ( Psalm 32:6 ; Psalms 69:1 Psalms 69:2 Psalms 69:14 Psalms 69:15 ; Isa 43:2 ; Lam 3:54 ). In some contexts water stands for enemies who can attack and need to be overcome ( 2 Sam 22:17-18 ; Psalm 18:16-17 ; 124:4-5 ; 144:7 ; Isa 8:7 ; Jer 47:2 ).

5. Water a symbol of the Holy Spirit – In a very important passage, Jesus identifies the “streams of living water” that flow from within those who believe in him with the Holy Spirit ( John 7:37-39 ). The reception of the Holy Spirit is clearly the special reception that was going to come after Jesus had been glorified at the Father’s right hand and happened on the Day of Pentecost as described in Acts 2. Two times in Jeremiah Yahweh is metaphorically identified as “the spring of living water” ( Jer 2:13 ; 17:13 ). In both instances Israel is rebuked for having forsaken the Lord for other cisterns that could in no way satisfy their “thirst.”

6. In other passages of Scripture, the following are said metaphorically to be “water”: God’s help ( Isa 8:6 : “the gently flowing waters of Shiloah” ); God’s judgment ( Isa 28:17 : “water will overflow your hiding place” ); man’s words ( Prov 18:4 : “The words of man’s mouth are deep waters” ); man’s purposes ( Prov 20:5 : “The purposes of a man’s heart are deep waters” ); an adulterous woman ( Prov 9:17 : “Stolen water is sweet” ); and a person’s posterity ( Isa 48:1 : “Listen to this, O house of Jacob, who are called by the name of Israel and have come forth out of the line [waters] of Judah” ).

The Use of Water

Water is used to manufacture goods, extract minerals and produce energy, but its biggest use, globally, is for food production.

Agriculture accounts for 70 percent of water use each year, and is deeply affected by changes in precipitation. Even if a region is getting the same average amount of rain and snow, droughts and floods have become more common. Rain may not arrive for some time — then arrive all at once — instead of falling more evenly across a growing season. That makes it difficult for farmers to rely on rainfall to water crops and increases the need for water storage and irrigation.

“Just looking at the averages doesn’t tell the whole story,” said Matthew Rodell, the deputy director of Earth Sciences at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. “It’s much more useful and easier to live with if the water all comes regularly and without these extremes. But more and more, that’s not the case.”

Drought-prone but wealthy areas are generally able to manage water stress. A complicated series of agreements governs the water use in the Colorado River Basin, where water is stored and managed through dams and reservoirs. Even during droughts, residents in major cities in the Southwest have reliable tap water.

If surface water is in short supply, people often turn to groundwater, which can be rapidly depleted. In India, nearly 60 percent of the population makes a living from farming. For decades, the government supported farmers by subsidizing the cost of diesel to run water pumps and tractors and by purchasing wheat and rice at an artificially high price. Water demand to irrigate rice and wheat fields is contributing to groundwater depletion in the northern region of Punjab.

Growing and feeding a cow to create one pound of beef requires as much as 1,800 gallons of water, by some estimates. Calorie-for-calorie, that’s almost eight times as much water as vegetables and 20 times as much water as cereals like wheat and corn.

Water-intensive crops like sugar cane and cotton could also drive demand in sub-Saharan Africa, where water use is expected to double over the next 20 years. Many areas still lack infrastructure to reliably deliver water for irrigation. As those pipelines are built, more farmers will have access to water, which will further strain surface water supplies. Inefficient water use and unsustainable management could lower gross domestic product in the region by 6 percent, according to the World Resource Institute.

The Effect of Climate Change on Water

1. Rising temperatures causes rise of sea levels though warming of water and melting of glaciers. There are two major reasons why sea levels have been rising: When water warms up, its volume increases. This is called thermal expansion. Secondly, the melting of glaciers and of the polar ice caps adds huge amounts of freshwater to the oceans.

Due to warmer temperatures, mountain glaciers all over the world are receding. The dramatic worldwide shrinking of the glaciers is one of the most visible evidences of global warming. Glaciers act as a kind of global fever thermometer. Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa, lost one third of its ice within 12 years. About 82% of its icecap surveyed in 1912 is now gone. In the Alps, the glaciers lost about 1/3 of their area and half of their volume between 1850 and 1975. Since then much more has melted. Switzerland went so far as to cover one of its most rapidly melting glaciers to slow down the loss. In the United States, the glaciers in “Glacier National Park” are retreating so quickly it has been estimated that they will vanish entirely by the year 2030.  

Melting glaciers pose multiple dangers: Initially, the increasing amount of meltwater can have a positive effect for hydropower. At the same time, emerging glacial lakes have the potential of sudden drainage that could cause devastating floods. In the long term, severe water shortages can be expected when there will be no or only very little ice left to melt in the summer. The time frame for this to happen varies greatly depending on the geographic location; it may be a matter of just a few years, decades, or, in the case of the Himalayas, several centuries.

The rising of sea levels will result in land and habitat loss in many countries. Bangladesh may lose almost 20% of its land area. Hundreds of coastal communities, Small Island states in the Pacific and Indian oceans and the Caribbean would be inundated, forcing their population to relocate. Experts with the United Nations University estimate that rising sea levels and environmental deterioration have already displaced about 50 million people. The greatest cost of rising sea levels will not be measurable.

It is the inevitable disruption of communities and cultures that cannot be replicated elsewhere.

However, in the more distant future, that is later on this century and beyond, hundreds of millions of people will become displaced if sea levels will rise a few meters. Many important, historical cities around the world like Venice, New Orleans, and Amsterdam will be lost to the ocean. Many of the largest cities in the world will sooner or later share the same fate, including Shanghai, Manhattan, Alexandria, and Dhaka. Some 84 of the world’s 100 fastest-growing cities face “extreme” risks from rising temperatures and extreme weather brought on by climate change.

Most worrisome is that the polar ice caps began melting as well. The accelerating speed of their melting even surprised scientists who predicted the thawing. From 1979 to 2005, Arctic sea ice has shrunk roughly 250 million acres an area the size of New York, Georgia, and Texas combined. Between 1953 and 2006, the area covered by sea ice in September shrunk by 7.8 percent per decade, more than three times as fast as the average rate simulated by climate models. It reached its lowest point on record in 2012. The extent of Arctic sea ice in 2019 was tied with 2007 and 2016 as the second lowest on record. The maximum extent, reached in March 2019, was tied with 2007 as the seventh lowest in the 40-year satellite record.

This decline is rapidly changing the geopolitics of the Arctic region, opening the Northwest Passage for the first time in recorded history and triggering a scramble among governments to claim large swaths of the potentially resource-rich Arctic sea floor.

Many now believe the summer Arctic Ocean could be ice-free by 2030, decades earlier than previously thought possible.” The Greenland ice sheet is also melting. It holds enough water to raise sea levels worldwide by 23 feet.

Why are the polar ice caps melting so fast? A major reason is the albedo (reflectivity) effect: Snow and ice are best reflectors of solar radiation. They reflect about 70% of the sun’s radiation (and absorb 30%). Water on the other hand is a poor reflector. It reflects only 6% of the sun’s radiation and absorbs most of the heat (94%). The intense thawing of ice and snow creates more water surfaces. The warming of the water contributes to the regional rise in temperature, which again causes more ice to melt. This ice – albedo feedback is believed to be the major reason why the Arctic is warming so rapidly. [xvi] In addition, the melt water from the surface penetrates into the depths of the ice sheets. The process lubricates the ice sheets and accelerates their movement towards the sea.

2. Water Scarcity has increased from both rise of demand and reduced availability from glaciers. The amount of freshwater is finite while demand is increasing. One billion people around the world don’t have access to clean, safe water. In developing nations, waterborne illnesses like cholera, typhoid and malaria kill 5 million people each year — 6,000 children every day. And global warming is exacerbating this crisis as severe, prolonged droughts dry up water supplies in arid regions and heavy rains cause sewage overflows.

People who fall ill from waterborne diseases can’t work. Women and girls who travel hours, sometimes more than seven hours a day, to fetch clean water for their families can’t go to school or hold on to a job. Without proper sanitation, human waste pollutes waterways and wildlife habitat. Global warming and population pressures are drying up water supplies and instigating conflict over scarce resources.

Water links and maintains all ecosystems on the planet. From sciencing.com: “The main function of water is to propel plant growth; provide a permanent dwelling for species that live within it, or provide a temporary home or breeding ground for multiple amphibians, insects and other water-birthed organisms; and to provide the nutrients and minerals necessary to sustain physical life.” It has its own cycle like carbon or phosphorus.

From sciencing.com: “Within humans, water helps to transport oxygen, minerals, nutrients and waste products to and from the cells. The digestive system needs water to function properly, and water lubricates the mucous layers in the respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts.”

The most serious threat to water supply is the disappearance of glaciers which provide much needed melt water during the summer. More than one-sixth of the world’s population will be affected.

Most of the planet’s water is unavailable for human use. While more than 70 percent of the Earth’s surface is covered by water, only 2.5 percent of it is freshwater. Out of that freshwater, almost 70 percent is permanently frozen in the ice caps covering Antarctica and Greenland. Only about 1 percent of the freshwater on Earth is available for people to use for drinking, bathing, and irrigating crops.”

In many parts of the world, lakes are shrinking or disappearing and rivers are running dry. Lake Chad, for example, has shrunk by 95% since about 1960. This had disastrous consequences for the local population. The main causes are the diversion of water for irrigation and less rainfall because of climate change. Many large rivers like the Yellow River, the Colorado River or the Nile don’t reach the ocean anymore.

The Himalayan region is predicted to be one of the areas hardest hit by climate change. In addition to the loss of water and hydroelectricity supply following glacial shrinkage, the Himalayas are expected to experience sudden and catastrophic flooding resulting from glacial lakes overwhelming their gravel moraine dams; decreased crop production resulting from erratic weather conditions; and the loss of numerous high altitude species unable to adapt to warmer conditions.

3. Water scarcity affects food supplies

We each drink on average nearly about 1 gallon of water per day in one form or another, while the water required to produce our daily food totals at least 528 gallons—500 times as much. This helps explain why 70 percent of all water use is for one purpose—irrigation.”

Aquifers are over-pumped in many countries. There are two types of aquifers: replenishable and nonreplenishable (or fossil) aquifers. Those in India and the shallow aquifer under the North China Plain are replenishable. When these are depleted, the maximum rate of pumping is automatically reduced to the rate of recharge.

For fossil aquifers, such as the vast U.S. Ogallala aquifer, the deep aquifer under the North China Plain, or the Saudi aquifer, depletion brings pumping to an end. Farmers who lose their irrigation water have the option of returning to lower-yield dry land farming if rainfall permits. In more arid regions, however, such as in the southwestern United States or the Middle East, the loss of irrigation water means the end of agriculture.

The U.S. embassy in Beijing reports that wheat farmers in some areas are now pumping from a depth of 300 meters (nearly 1,000 feet). Pumping water from this far down raises pumping costs so high that farmers are often forced to abandon irrigation and return to less productive dry land farming.

Changes in precipitation patterns are observed in many parts of the world. The timing and amount of rain are very important for crops. Farmers need to adapt and learn how to do things differently, for example plant different seeds, or different crops, or plant them at a different time of the year.

4. How can we limit water scarcity

1 Cities can develop infrastructure to capture and reuse stormwater runoff, repair leaks in municipal water systems and encourage water efficiency. In Nevada, the Las Vegas Valley Water District created a grass replacement program and fined water waste, which reduced the area’s total water use by 26 billion gallons per year from 2002 to 2021, even as the area’s population grew by 750,000 residents. Nationwide, more efficient appliances have reduced per capita household water use since 1980.

2. Food choices can have a big impact, too. Raising livestock for meat and dairy takes much more water than growing vegetables and grains, so reducing meat and dairy consumption can decrease individual water footprints. Reducing food waste could also help reduce water use. In the United States, more than a third of food ends up in the landfill

The Threat of Water in the Western US

Arizona’s water troubles show how climate change is reshaping the West


In one of the fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the country, it’s a boom time — water-intensive microchip companies and data centers moving in; tens of thousands of houses spreading deep into the desert. But it is also a time of crisis: Climate change is drying up the American West and putting fundamental resources at ever greater risk.

The decision by Arizona in 2022 to limit residential construction in some parts of the fast-growing Phoenix suburbs is another major warning about how climate change is disrupting lifestyles and economies in the West. Throughout the region, glaciers have receded, wildfires have expanded, rivers and lakes have shrunk. It has been a wet winter, but the deeper trends brought on by the warming atmosphere persist.

[Gov. Katie Hobbs (D) announced a pause on new subdivisions in the Phoenix suburbs that do not already have proven water supplies. That restriction will hit hardest in the towns and unincorporated areas on the periphery that have been some of the fastest-growing parts of the country.The policy is a response to an analysis by the Arizona Department of Water Resources showing insufficient groundwater beneath the Phoenix metro area to meet projected demand over the next century.]

Groundwater can take thousands of years to replenish once it has been sucked out, so the problem is not easy to solve. Such shortages are likely to reshape, in coming decades, where people live and how much they pay to do so. State leaders must begin making tough decisions about Arizona’s long-term future, said Rhett Larson, a professor of water law at Arizona State University.

“Sometimes, you’ve got to give up some dreams to get to others,” Larson said. “Arizona is in that situation with its water.”

“We want to be the greatest semiconductor and microchip manufacturer in the world. We can do that. We have enough water, but our food prices are going to go up because we’re not going to grow as much food,” he said. “Those are the hard conversations that Arizona has to have right now.”

 “Our forests are burning up. Our rivers are diminished. There is sand blowing through places that used to be vegetated,” said Norm Gaume, a former water resources manager for Albuquerque who leads a grass-roots group that pushes for sustainable water in New Mexico. “The signs are all there.”

 In Utah, the Great Salt Lake has lost more than 70 percent of its water, and recent reports warn that it could disappear within five years, along with billions of dollars of economic activity and thousands of jobs that rely on it.

 [“There’s been a titanic shift in how my community views water, and it’s been very encouraging to see that,” said Zachary Renstrom, the general manager of the Washington County Water Conservancy District in southwest Utah.

His hot and dry corner of Utah, which includes the city of St. George, has been another boomtown stressed by a shortage of water. The county’s population is expected to more than double by 2050, while local leaders have been desperately hunting for new water sources to supply them. Habits are shifting. Developers are putting up more water-efficient homes. Citizens have embraced desert-friendly plants. A rebate program that pays $2 per square foot to convert away from grass has drawn huge interest, Renstrom said.]

In 2022, the Mormon church began urging conservation and touted its water-saving efforts in the American West. At its fall general conference, which Mormons everywhere follow for speeches considered direction from God, a senior bishop stressed using Earth’s resources with restraint. In spring, 2023, another senior bishop delivered what was praised as a landmark address on Mormons’ history with water in the valley and outlined an unprecedented move: permanently donating a small reservoir’s worth of church-owned water, the largest such gift ever made for the lake. The donation comes nowhere near solving the lake’s woes, which are imperiling key industries, putting wildlife at risk and clouding the air with poisonous dust. Experts say more aggressive legislation is critical.

The problem in much of the west continues to be wildfires. The enormous spread of wildfires in California just prompted the state’s largest insurer, State Farm, to stop issuing new policies there, amid its “rapidly growing catastrophe exposure,” as the company put it.

 States along the Colorado River just reached an unprecedented deal to leave a major portion of their water supply in the river in an attempt to keep Lake Powell and Lake Mead from falling so low that they can no longer produce hydropower. If that happened, electricity could become far costlier for millions of people. But the negotiated solution — more than $1 billion of taxpayer funds to pay farmers and others to forgo water — will mean fields lying fallow and potential job losses in some of the country’s major agricultural regions.

Preserving Water- 6 things You Can Do

1 Installing an ENERGY STAR-certified washer,

2 Using low-flow faucets,

3 Plugging up leaks,

4 Irrigating the lawn in the morning or evening when the cooler air causes less evaporation,

5 Taking shorter showers and not running sink water when brushing your teeth,

6 Consider using non-toxic cleaning products and eco-friendly pesticides and herbicides that won’t contaminate groundwater.