Why Saving Our Pollinators Should Be Connected to Groundwater Preservation

This graphic from Slideshare.net shows the water cycle as it's currently understood. The question becomes: When will the combined impact of flow-thru fish hatcheries, fracking, commercial water-bottling, irrigation and other groundwater usage overcome the ability of the underground water table to regenerate itself? And fracking for oil and natural gas, which involves the heavy use of chemicals to dislodge hydrocarbons from underground rock formations, adds a severe pollution factor to the mix. Moreover, excessive urban development and the hard surfaces it creates, makes larger areas of land non-porous, thereby reducing the seepage of rainwater into underground cavities. The final menace in the mix is the prospect of severe droughts.

 By AWAKENING NEWS STAFF

If losing our pollinators would mean that our food chain on land wouldn’t be able to sustain the demands of human beings, then, logically, the same could be said about the health of our surface waters and aquifers.

If those waters become too polluted or, in the case of groundwater, if the levels get too low, then pollinator losses impacting ground-based food growth could carry over to the fish and other protein sources (seafood) derived from our waters.

Furthermore, the depletion of one sector (e.g., groundwater) would create a greater need for pollinators to make up for any shortfalls from the water-based part of the food chain.

Unfortunately, as Bee City Canada, Bee City USA and other concerned groups and individuals have explained, there is a real decline in the actual numbers of our pollinators (mainly bees and some butterflies) and that decline is caused by pollutants, among other factors. But now that we’ve realised that the collapse of bee colonies must be stopped and reversed, the problems that our aquifers, lakes, rivers, streams and oceans are facing should be recognized on an approximately equal footing.

Notably, a recent report indicated a 30% decline of ocean fish populations along the coastlines of China and Japan. But rather than relying on land-grown food to make up for that region’s newly announced wild-fish shortfalls, fish farming is being considered to fill some of the gap.

Yet, what continues to go “under the radar” is that large volumes of clean groundwater are required to hatch the fish eggs, grow them to fingerling size, and release them into the oceans.

Thus, to offset the demand for huge amounts of groundwater caused by common “flow-thru” fish hatcheries (simply water in, water out), the advancement of superior closed-system fish hatcheries is a necessity. With these closed-loop systems, water usage is cut by 90% or better because the water is recirculated and cleaned.

Unless we retool our hatcheries with water-efficient closed-loop systems, among other vital remedial actions, we run the risk of our planet’s aquifers not meeting a demand that will be even more massive if other oceanic areas see a fish decline like the one affecting the waters around China and Japan. So, all things considered, it cannot be overstated that, without the adoption of such closed-loop hatcheries, there will be no recourse other than to increase the amount of food supplied from land-based agriculture. And that option is heavily dependent on the pollinator-preservation issue.

ONE DEPENDS UPON THE OTHER

Therefore, with the connection between land-based and water-based food sources in mind Awakening News has been reaching out to government leaders and their environmental agencies, and to scientists and businesses which might want to research and promote such closed-system technology.

So far as we can determine, Fisherman’s Cove / Cold Water Fisheries, which once operated in Ontario’s Lake Simcoe region, was the only place where this closed system (using intellectual property from Ontario’s University of Guelph) had been advanced to the point where it competed in the fish-farming sector. Remember, groundwater usage was cut by 90% with the closed system.

[NOTE: The main contributor to this article, Awakening News Associate Editor John Devine, was instrumental in developing and applying the technology at Fisherman’s Cove].

But unfortunately, the government, using heavy-handed, deceptive tactics, forced those businesses to close in 1994 while abusing the intellectual property and land rights of the owners. Most of the land was expropriated and bulldozed to widen a road for Casino Rama, and there was not enough remaining land on which to rebuild.

Mr. Devine, in recent correspondence to the Society of Environmental Journalists, sought to inform the SEJ group of his own experience in trying to establish such an efficient type of fish hatchery (technology that drastically cut water usage and dramatically reduced the discharge of polluted water. That is a big problem with flow-thru hatcheries which have a “pollution factor” of 20,000 people).

Devine informed the SEJ of the following:

“It was under the roof of Fisherman’s Cove where we installed our first closed system, designed to hold bait fish, in 1986. From the intellectual property we ascertained from the University of Guelph and from knowledge gained [from installing] Fisherman’s Cove’s closed system, we (a family of farmers) went on to build and operate Coldwater Fisheries, which eventually grew to be the largest fish farm in Ontario. Five industrial sized closed systems were installed.”

He also informed SEJ: “Fisherman’s Cove as far as we know was the only retail outlet in North America to sell bait fish that was hatched, reared and held in closed systems. But our advancement of research and development in farming bait fish came to an end when Fisherman’s Cove was destroyed by a demolition company [under orders from the government].”

Meanwhile, the Awakening News has found that there’s surprisingly little interest in the scientific, academic, governmental and journalistic communities in what happened to Fisherman’s Cove (and equally little interest in the closed-system hatchery technology itself). And that’s among the reasons that Devine started Awakening News—which grew out of a former newsletter called “World’s Apart.”

Anyone with input on this matter is encouraged to contact us in the interest of advancing this water-saving technology at a time when oil fracking as well as flow-thru fish farms pollute our groundwater while subjecting the underground water table to an enormous burden in terms of the sheer amount of groundwater being used overall.

Of course, heavy irrigation and other processes during prolonged droughts further aggravates the problem. At any rate, since protecting pollinators is among the key actions needed to sustain the land-based food supply, shouldn’t we be equally responsible toward sustaining that part of our food supply that comes from the lakes, rivers and oceans?

GROUNDWATER USAGE DATA TOUGH TO OBTAIN

While the Awakening News generally understands that some flow-thru hatcheries may use up to 2,000 gallons of groundwater per minute, the hatchery industry, government environmental agencies, politicians, conventional media, academia etc. have been strangely reluctant about disclosing or even discussing the impact of flow-thru hatcheries on groundwater when contacted by Awakening News.

The bottom line is that the per-minute figure certainly is not widely publicized, so the matter can largely be labeled “unknown,” officially speaking, anyway.

However, even if you use only the most conservative estimates, the impact is still large. For instance, the Evart, Michigan water-bottling plant run by the Swiss-based Nestle corporation recently received a state permit to increase its withdrawal of groundwater to 400 gallons per minute—or 24,000 gallons per hour, which is 576,000 gallons per 24 hours.

So, if flow-through hatcheries even use that comparatively “modest” amount of water, it’s still a sizeable  “slurp” out of the ground, with scarce oversight of the long-term impact on groundwater levels. But considering that flow-thru, non-recycling hatcheries in some cases very likely surpass the impact of the Michigan-based Nestle plant—which is a lot like the Nestle water-bottling plant located in Guelph, Ontario—society has a major issue to consider that is rarely being discussed.

In summary, the groundwater issue and the pollinator issue are very much alike: Both are rarely raised and seem safe to ignore. And both can be ignored only at our peril—and to the detriment of countless generations who are counting on us.

To contact Awakening News, email: LTE@AwakeningNews.ca We want to obtain hard reliable data for how many gallons of groundwater are used per-minute and per-hour by typical flow-thru hatcheries, as well as how many gallons of groundwater it takes to raise a pound of fish. National Geographic said it takes 1,799 gallons to raise just one pound of beef. Why is similar data for raising a pound of fish rarely, if ever, discussed?