Locally, worries about GenX and harmful contaminants in our
drinking water have some people concerned about turning on the
tap. Nationally, about one-fourth of the country is in drought
conditions at any given time. Internationally, an estimated 780
million people lack access to clean water.
Water is necessary for life, yet it seems a safe, plentiful supply
is an elusive and ongoing struggle.
Make that a plentiful, potable supply. Take a walk out on
any New Hanover County beach, and look to the east. Water
stretches as far as the eye can see. It’s not just here. About 71
percent of the Earth’s surface is covered by water. And about 96.5
percent of that water is contained in the oceans and seas. It’s an
But when it comes to the ocean, the ancient mariner’s lament
in Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s famous poem rings true: “Water,
water everywhere/nor any drop to drink.”
That, of course, is the problem. All this water, and humans
can’t drink it. Not just because the taste makes it unpalatable. Salt
water can literally kill us.
The National Ocean Service succinctly explains why.
“The salt content in seawater is much higher than what can be
processed by the human body. Living cells do depend on sodium
chloride (salt) to maintain the body’s chemical balances and reac-tions;
however, too much sodium can be deadly. Human kidneys
can only make urine that is less salty than salt water. Therefore,
to get rid of all the excess salt taken in by drinking seawater, you
have to urinate more water than you drank. Eventually, you die
of dehydration even as you become thirstier.”
These days there can be harmful levels of bacteria and contami-nants
close to shore, but the offshore seawater would still be safe
WBM march 2018
COURTESY OF JUSTIN SONNETT