Water Stewardship Past and Present

Water Stewardship

One of the major issues facing us today is how we get enough water to the right places to meet human needs. Between climate change and the growing human population, water availability is a huge concern in countries worldwide. We either have too much water resulting in floods or droughts that threaten food shortages. The fact is that God has equipped planet Earth with plenty of water. The problem is human water stewardship is not what it should be.

In the year 330, Roman Emperor Constantine took an ancient Greek city known as Byzantium and renamed it New Rome to become the new center of the Roman Empire. As the city grew, it became known as Constantine’s City or Constantinople. Three decades later, a court orator named Themistius wrote that “the city thirsts.” The city was surrounded by the sea on three sides, but it needed fresh water for its growing population. So, in 340, Constantius II began a major aqueduct construction project completed under Roman Emperor Valens In 373. The enormous project required an amount of stone equivalent to the Great Pyramid of Giza and enough mortar to fill 500 Olympic-size swimming pools. With the aqueducts, reservoirs, and a system of cisterns, Constantinople could truly become the new Rome in the fourth and fifth centuries. 

Many areas today face a shortage of water. Six states, including 40 million people in the American West, receive water from the Colorado River. The states are Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, and California. In 1922, the states made a compact giving California the largest share of the water. Unfortunately, the Colorado River has been shrinking in recent years while the human population has grown. The pact made in 1922 is not working well, especially for Arizona, and the situation requires better water stewardship.

Could we build a water system today analogous to what the Romans did almost 1,700 years ago? Can you imagine the benefit to all Americans if we had such a water distribution system in the western US? Droughts and flooding occur, but the effect is made worse by poor stewardship of the water resources God has given us. People in Africa, and other areas, need wells to provide safe water, and Christian organizations are working to meet that need. We can and must do more, and Christians should be the first to realize the importance of water stewardship because we honor the Giver of every good and perfect gift. (See James 1:17 and Mark 9:41.)

— John N. Clayton and Roland Earnst © 2023

References: “The City Thirsts” by James Crow in Current World Archaeology magazine # 117 for February/March 2023, and “The Colorado River war and the growing problem of less water” on TheWeek.com.