All creatures need clean water to survive.

Challenges to our water supplies include droughts brought on by global warming and climate change, poor water quality, inadequate water supplies, and poor sanitation.

Farming, which depends on water, can contribute immensely to water shortages. Clear-cutting trees causes erosion, muddying streams, and reduces the amounts of oxygen released into the atmosphere by trees, contributing to global warming. Cows, pigs, and other farm animals pollute streams with their waste—not to mention the runoff of chemicals from pesticides and fertilizers.

In many areas, women and children walk miles to carry water—often polluted—for their household use because they have no access in their villages to wells that would provide clean water.

Clean, accessible water is a basic right for all life on earth, and the Franciscan Sisters of Mary support efforts to provide, purify, and protect water for all creation.

Countering Water Pollution with Communication

In recent years FSM has partnered with Rare, an organization working in Colombia as well as other areas across the globe. Through their watershed work, Rare is striving to re-establish a clean, reliable water supply for Colombian communities.

In an area of Colombia, water shortages had reached an all-time high. Runoff from the ranches upstream routinely polluted the water for the communities who lived downstream. Erosion from clear-cutting muddied the waters.

By encouraging interpersonal communication between the landowners upstream and the water users downstream, Rare helped them work through a solution.

A Win-Win Situation

Conservation becomes the accepted norm within these communities. They set up contracts to protect the country’s cloud forests and its native ecosystems and species. Colombia is home to some of the world’s rarest and most endangered species, and by helping communities set up mutually beneficial agreements, Rare guides them to find solutions that will last.

Communities set up Reciprocal Water Agreements that encourage landowners to adopt more sustainable land usage. Rather than clear-cutting forests for farming, for instance, they might plant coffee, which grows in the shade. Instead of allowing their cattle to graze on the edge of the streams and thereby pollute the water for people downstream, they put up fencing to keep the cattle away from the water. They benefit, and so do the water users downstream.

Making a Difference

In the past the Franciscan Sisters of Mary have supported efforts to drill wells to provide clean water to villages in Honduras and Tanzania, to build community watering stations in villages where otherwise women and children would walk miles to fetch dirty water, and to train villagers to maintain the water and sanitation systems donated.

We can all conserve water. Keeping farms and manufacturing plants from polluting streams and rivers is crucial. Digging wells, preventing erosion, working against climate change—all are ways to help preserve this precious resource for the generations who will follow.