Originally from Des Moines, Nick Hunter is participating in the 2014 water resources summer internship program with Water Rocks!.
Last summer, I was fortunate enough to visit Lake Atitlan in Guatemala and work at the Mesoamerican Institute of Permaculture, situated right on the edge of the lake. I learned about small-scale, sustainable methods of agriculture being used throughout Guatemala. Throughout my stay, I became increasingly aware of the local people’s deep connection with nature, especially with the lake. In some form or another, they incorporate the lake water in almost every aspect of their lives: bathing, cooking, drinking, swimming, planting. Furthermore, they acknowledge this important function the lake serves by thanking it during religious ceremonies and constantly protecting its welfare to ensure its continued use as a resource. They clearly know where their water comes from, how to treat it, and its importance in their daily lives.
Unfortunately, raw sewage coming from major tourist towns and agrochemicals used by many foreign-owned farms are entering the lake at much higher rates than before. This contamination has seriously impacted the wellbeing of nearby communities. And although many of these communities around the lake have not contributed to this pollution, they remain helpless to the contamination caused in other parts of the lakes.
The strong relationship the lake communities have formed with this body of water along with the contamination they confront has forced me to reevaluate how I think about water in my home. I turn on a faucet and get clean, drinkable water with no thought to the work done to get it that way or from where it comes. Water has always been such a dispensable and easily available resource that any recognition of its important and consistent role in my life has been drowned out by the monotony and facility of taking daily showers, drinking glasses of water from the sink, and watering the backyard flowers.
Living in an urban area, it’s not as easy to see the tangible effects of water pollution because clean water has always and still does run out of my tap, but seeing the adverse consequences of water contamination directly impacting a group of people in Guatemala brought light to similar water quality issues that exist here in Iowa. I may have never fully been aware of the problems in my own state, but my internship with Water Rocks! has helped me learn about the ways we are confronting our own water quality issues. Even more, it has given me an opportunity to promote awareness about these problems so all of us can work together in order to ensure we keep our waterways safe and clean.