The Grey Chronicles


Man and Water

I remember in high school where we were required to read Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, and also remembered a phrase from it: Water, Water Everywhere, Nor Any Drop to Drink. Many of us heard: man can live for a week without food; but for three days without water, man could die.

Hoes (1979) explains that man’s unique structure, computed in atomic composition, is divided into three classes:

“The most abundant are hydrogen (63%), oxygen (25%), carbon (9.5%) and nitrogen (1.4%); together they make up 98.9% of the total, and they are among the lightest eight elements of the periodic system. Next comes a class that contributes almost the whole remaining 1.1%; in order of frequency it is calcium (0.31%), chloride (0.3%), phosphorus (0.22%), potassium (0.06%), sulfur (0.05%), sodium (0.03%) and magnesium (0.01%). They are among the light elements of the periodic system. The last class consists of metals that are found only in trace amounts. Among these are copper (100 mg) and zinc (250 mg), and others like cobalt, iron, etc. (Davies, 1972; Bogert, 1973). They are the heaviest elements that are found in the human body.”

Hoes infers “This chemical composition is not very much different from that of seawater.” Ironically, the Ancient Mariner would find that although he himself is basically made of seawater, and surrounded by that same thing, he wondered how he could survive without drinking.

Water is fundamental to our quality of life and our economic future. Water is the only common substance that occurs naturally and simultaneously in three distinct phases as gas, liquid, and solid.

Far beyond its ordinary daily uses, water is important, in science and hence in human affairs. Mean sea level is the standard reference datum for geodesy, geophysics and other sciences that need a fixed datum. The freezing-point of water is the zero point of the Celsius temperature scale, and its boiling-point is the l00-degree mark. On the relative density scale of matter, the density of pure water is taken as unity.

Peter Lawrence, Jeremy Meigh & Caroline Sullivan (2002) constructed an International Water Poverty Index to express an interdisciplinary measure which links household welfare with water availability and indicates the degree to which water scarcity impacts on human populations.

“Comparable to that of the Human Development Index, based on five major components: Resources, Access, Capacity, Use and Environment, the index makes it possible to rank countries and communities within countries taking into account both physical and socio-economic factors associated with water scarcity. This enables national and international organisations concerned with water provision and management to monitor both the resources available and the socioeconomic factors which impact on access and use of those resources.”

Nace (1969), writing for UNESCO, states:

“Water problems are few but basic: distribution in space (too much or too little) ; distribution in time (too much in some seasons or years and not enough in others) ; chemical quality (too highly mineralized; lacking in desirable minerals; containing deleterious minerals) ; and pollution.”

Elagib (1986) discusses how innovative research efforts, novel approaches, and genuine international co-operation to utilize modern technologies, may enable Man to rehabilitate deteriorating ecosystems, enrich degraded soils, and increase water resources.

Water, as any grade school student knows, is made up of hydrogen and oxygen atoms. Man excretes 14,200 liters of sweat, dependent on climate and lifestyle. Most of us will cry 68 liters of tears subject to gender differences. Tears and sweat—and of course, urine—are water-based.

Yet, for the thirsty man, the water has a technical value regardless of the source or any other consideration. The cup can be used or even dirty, the man providing it a criminal, and the water will still have the same technical value.

It is usually said that money is power, then recently transformed into information is power. Today, most of us know that knowledge is power. But in the near future, could water be powerful than all these things?


Elagib, A.A.R. (1986). New Technologies May Enable Man To Increase Water Resources and Reverse Desertification, Presented during the International Conference on Water Resources Needs & Planning in Drought Prone Areas, Khartoum, December 1986. pp. 621-628. back to text

Hoes, M. J. A. J. M. (2006). Man’s Molecules: The Contribution of Molecular Biology To Orthomolecular Psychiatry, Orthomolecular Psychiatry. 8:4, 1979. pp. 236. back to text

Lawrence, Peter; Jeremy Meigh & Caroline Sullivan (2002). The Water Poverty Index: an International Comparison. KERP 2002/19. Staffordshire, U.K.: Keele Economics Research Papers, October 2002. 24pp. back to text

Nace, Raymond L. (1969). Water and Man; a world view. Paris: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization [UNESCO], 1969. p. 9, 11. back to text

Disclaimer: The posts on this site does not necessarily represent any organization’s positions, strategies or opinions; and unless otherwise expressly stated, are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Philippines License.


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