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By Louie Bond

The allure of water is ancient and mystical. As the late explorer Jacques Cousteau told us, “The Sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.” That bit of wisdom has held true since the earliest of our predecessors drew nourishment from the rivers and oceans. In fact, most humans live near bodies of water these days, and those who don’t may head there on vacation to fish, sail, swim and just relax. Why do we love water?

For one thing, water (along with air) is crucial to our existence. Our bodies are composed of 55-60 percent water, from our skin and bones to our brain and lungs and heart. Water functions as a vital nutrient for our cells, regulates our body temperature, metabolizes carbohydrates and proteins, flushes waste, lubricates our joints and so much more. Before we’re born, prenatal humans are immersed in a watery fluid. As adults, we must intake two or three liters per day to survive.

Water’s also a limited resource that’s dwindling quickly as our population grows. Of the more than 300 cubic miles of water on this planet, only a tiny bit — 4 percent — isn’t saline. Clean, sustainable drinking water is a critical concern in many parts of the world, even here in Texas. Our aquifers carry a vast supply of fresh drinking water beneath our feet, but increasing demand is stretching that resource more every year.

We’re connected to water physically and cognitively, but also emotionally. For anyone who’s spent a lazy summer afternoon watching the waves rush in to a Port Aransas beach or dreamily gazing at the green Blanco River flowing under shady cypress trees, we know our connection to water is even deeper. There’s a calm peacefulness that washes over us as our senses take in the scene: the fresh scent in the breeze, the glint of the sun reflecting on the water, and the sound of water crashing and rippling as it moves. Respiration slows, blood pressure drops, and the furrow between our eyebrows smooths. Ah, relaxation.

Author Wallace J. Nichols describes the feeling as Blue Mind, “a mildly meditative state characterized by calm, peacefulness, unity and a sense of general happiness and satisfaction with life in the moment.” As your mind clears of the everyday thrum of noise, you become aware of your place in time and space, a tiny creature in a vast universe, one of many in the chain of humanity. As the stress ebbs away, happiness takes its place.

That’s why we post social media memes of beach chairs and sandy toes as we dream of summer getaways: “Feeling stressed? There’s a beach for that!” It’s also why we chose to spend a great deal of this magazine issue floating and swimming on top of Texas water and diving deep below. When temperatures hit the 100-degree mark in May and fall is a distant dream, when June brings no relief and July heat shimmers and sizzles, we do what we’ve done for centuries — head to the water.

This pleasure comes with responsibility, of course. Hypoxic (dead) zones and coral reef bleaching threaten the Gulf; drought and wastewater discharge threaten our rivers and streams. Conservation begins with information, then follows with caring concern and action. This year, after you visit your favorite seaside community, lakeshore townhouse or riverine swimming hole, think about what you can do to help preserve your treasured spot.

First steps can be as easy as carrying out your trash (and any you find). Work your way up to joining organized “friends” groups, get involved in public policy or find ways to use less water in your household.

Together, we’ll keep our watering holes fresh and cool and our minds calm and peaceful for many years to come.

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