Gardens for Humanity: The Water Cycle as a Model of Sustainability

Photo: Courtesy Monique Sidy

Photo: Courtesy Monique Sidy

Last month I was invited to teach students from Sedona Charter School about sustainability at the Sedona Heritage Museum. There were four classes of fourth to sixth graders visiting, and my part was to talk to each group about how sustainability has been practiced in Sedona by indigenous peoples, pioneers, and present day residents.

I call sustainability “The Circle of Life.” As an introduction, I asked each group if they could think of an example of The Circle of Life in nature. Each group separately identified the water cycle. Sustainable thinking is “systems thinking,” so the water cycle is a perfect example. Surface water evaporates, rises to become clouds, condenses, falls as rain and snow, and then is reused by all living creatures and natural waterways. As water evaporates from the earth and plants it is purified and comes back to us to restore our water systems.

So where do we fit into the water cycle? Our bodies overall are 60% water and some of our vital organs are up to 85% water. However, in spite of our significant dependence on water, humans are the biggest polluters and wasters of this precious resource. The food that we depend on depends on water. Beyond towns, farms, and cities, the health of the natural habitat also depends on water.

In Arizona, April was “Water Awareness Month,” and the Arizona Department of Water Resources held many events. Their website states, “Water Awareness Month is not only dedicated to promoting Arizona’s success in managing its water resources, it also is intended to encourage Arizonans to be conscious of every precious drop. After all, water is life to us all.”

It is ironical that while we let downpours of rain run off freely, often causing serious flooding, in many places, we deplete groundwater, or depend on purified wastewater for drinking. Agriculture, which cannot exist without water, is often the greatest source of chemical and toxic pollution. Manufacturing and much energy production often deplete and contaminate water.

In our region, the Friends of the Verde River, and the Oak Creek Watershed Council are dedicated to preserving and improving our local water systems as part of the Verde Watershed. They have great tips on living a water wise life. They promote a sustainable water supply, clean water, healthy uplands and riparian forests, and supportive communities.

The water cycle is an apt model of sustainability. As we think of our dependence, use, and impact on all our resources that provide our food, clothing, shelter and transportation, we can appreciate our role in the critical balance between abundance and scarcity. It shows us that how we choose to use a valuable resource is important.

Gardens for Humanity, as a partner with the Verde Valley Food Policy Council, promotes water wise farming and gardening. Our Food Policy states that “the food future of the Verde Valley depends on local protection and preservation of our natural resources of land, water, and natural environment.” The Verde Valley was once a “bread basket” of Arizona. We can all help regenerate a healthy local food system by the choices of where our food comes from.

Richard Sidy is president of Gardens for Humanity, a founding member of the Sustainability Alliance and a member of the Verde Valley Food Policy Council. To reach him, email .

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