Water is necessary for life. When most other resources run low, we can exchange them with equivalents that get the job done. But water is irreplaceable. We can survive for weeks without food, but only days without water. Societies have flourished without oil, but never without adequate water.
There are all kinds of observations to be made about growing water stress, about the links between water and energy production, about water and food security, about water and soil health, about water and ecosystem management, about climate and too much or too little water - droughts, floods and rising seas.
Instead, I would like to take as my focus this saying of Jesus:
"Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life."
- John 4.13-14.The practicalities of water are serious and pressing, complex and difficult. But the symbolism of water used here by Jesus points to an issue that lies alongside and behind these thorny problems: the possibility of sustaining ecological responsibility amidst a cacophony of competing demands and the complexities of ethics, politics, economics, agriculture, hydrology and law. What keeps us going amidst these distractions and difficulties? And when the best outcome seems woefully inadequate and the required effort great, what is the source of continuing to care? What do we do when the springs of motivation dry up?
Jesus' promise is that he provides a never-ending supply of what is necessary, what is irreplaceable. It is the living Christ who sustains the possibility of a heart that keeps yearning, hands that keep serving, feet that keep taking the next step. Why does this spring never fail? Because it does not arise from the self, but is a divine gift. Because it leads out of the self, overflowing into love of neighbour.