Reflecting on water 

Hannah Gray of Water Aid and the Baptist Union Environment Network (BUEN) reflects on the life giving gift of water:

Reflections on Ormesby Broad, Norfolk. copyright Hannah Gray

Perhaps it is because I live close to the sea and the marshes of east Norfolk, or perhaps it is because I work for WaterAid, but my mind often wonders about water.  

Water is all around us and within us, integral to our survival as living beings and fundamental for the health of the environment. Here in the UK, we take water for granted – it’s always available at the turn of a tap or the flush of a loo, and who doesn’t complain about the rain?! Our language is flooded with aquatic metaphors, we overflow with hydrological idioms – is your glass half full or are you a fish out of water? Do you pour oil on troubled waters or is just let water under the bridge? 

Water is important to us spiritually – as Baptists our immersion in water to symbolise our spiritual transformation is very important. Water is mentioned a total of 722 times in the Bible, more often than faith, hope, prayer, and worship! Right at the beginning in Genesis 1:2 we read “the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters”, and at the end in Revelation 22:17 we read “Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life”. 

For the Israelites living in the middle east during Bible times, water was a precious resource. God’s provision of water for the land was inextricably linked to their right-relationship with him by the prophets. We read in scripture that God uses water for judgement and justice, for healing and purification. Jesus controlled the waters of the storm, even walked on water, and he offers himself metaphorically as living water. We only have time to dip our toe into the water of Biblical imagery and symbolism here.  

But our world is in troubled waters – already we sometimes experience too much water, or too little water. The amount of carbon dioxide we add to our atmosphere affects the water cycle. A warmer atmosphere can hold more water and has more energy, leading to intense rainfall and flooding – Cyclone Freddy, on track to be the longest cyclone on record, dumped one year of rain in the last month on Mozambique. Conversely, climate change also affects droughts. We will get twice as many droughts if our atmosphere warms by 1.5 degrees, and four times as many if it warms by 4 degrees. And come hell or high water, it is always the poorest who suffer most from these extreme but increasingly frequent events. 

World Water Day is on 22 March. This week the first UN Water Conference since 1977 meets in New York to accelerate action to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 6: everyone everywhere getting access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene by 2030. We need to speed up current efforts by four times if we are to reach the target.  

Scientists predict global demand for freshwater will outstrip supply by 40% by 2030. Water is going to become a precious resource again, just like it was for the Israelites in Bible times. What steps can you take this week to value water more?  

But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!” Amos 5:24. 

Hannah Gray is a member at Light of Life Baptist Church in Norfolk. She coordinates the Baptist Union Environment Network in the Eastern Baptist Association region, and works for WaterAid managing a water and sanitation project in Nepal, in partnership with Anglian Water The Beacon Project|WASH Matters