Seven Key Areas
Faith-consistent use of assets
Water and sanitation
The first of the Seven Key Areas, Faith-Consistent Use of Assets, is a big one. Faiths are major stakeholders in the physical planet when it comes to land, buildings, forests and water – and that's before we get to health care, financial investments and microfinance, and purchasing power and consumption, all of which fall into this category. For that reason, we have split this section into several pages. Here we focus on water and sanitation.
Ether, air, fire, water, earth, planets, all creatures, directions, trees and plants, rivers and seas, they are all organs of God’s body.
Srimad Bhagavata Mahapurana (2.2.41)
The spiritual significance of water and cleanliness
Water has particular significance for many faiths. It is fundamental for all life on earth and for this reason is often regarded as a gift of the Divine. All major faiths have teachings about the spiritual significance of water, and water and cleanliness are central to many faiths' teachings and practice. Today many water resources are threatened by unsustainable use, pollution, and climate change. Because faiths manage a great deal of land – including many bodies of water, from rivers and lakes to springs and seas – they have a particular role to play in protecting and influencing the way we value and use water.
Questions to consider as you develop your Faith Plan
The guide below provides prompts and pointers to help you identify what steps you can take to examine how you use and access water and sanitation for your Faith Plan. You can also download a copy of the questions to work offline.
First steps: Explore your faith’s theology of water:
1. What does your faith teach about water? Do you have access to a theology of water from your own faith tradition, which outlines your faith’s traditional understanding of water?
2. Can you use your theology of water to influence people to avoid undesirable behaviours and to adopt positive behaviours in how aquatic environments are managed and cared for and in how water use is managed?
3. What are the main uses of the water resources under the ownership or management of your faith community, organisation or network?
4. Have you mapped the extent of the aquatic environments under your ownership or management? Have you assessed the quality of these aquatic environments, including recording levels of biodiversity?
First steps continued:
5. In what ways can you incorporate your faith’s teachings and wisdom into promoting environmentally responsible irrigation, desalination, bathing, gardening, sewerage and other uses of water?
6. Do you implement practices/ techniques that actively seek to reduce demand for or conserve water?
7. Dirty water and inadequate sanitation are a major cause of disease and death, especially among children. Do the water and sanitation facilities – toilets and hand washing – in your schools, places of worship, universities and other buildings reflect your values?
8. If not, what can you do to improve those facilities?
9. Can you promote good handwashing and hygiene practices in your schools and communities?
Next steps: Think about the practical actions you could take to protect and conserve water.
Are your water resources shared with other stakeholders?
How can you actively monitor the rivers and marine environments running through or close to the land you manage to assess how polluted they are?
How can you track and measure the impact of your actions to reduce that pollution?
Who can you partner with to support these efforts (academic institutions, research institutions, the laity, other faith groups)?
How is your commitment to gender equality and racial equality reflected in your long-term water plans?
Restoring a wetlands ecosystem
Pearlstone Retreat Center
Pearlstone Retreat Center, a member of Faith Plans partner, Hazon, is restoring a 1,300-foot length of stream as part of an exciting wetlands restoration project in Maryland, USA. The aim is to redirect, re-grade and re-plant the stream, both to reduce erosion and to improve ecological function.
One of the main reasons this part of the stream is being restored is the presence of two natural mikvahs. These are pools which are typically filled by springs or naturally sourced water. They are used for immersion prior to marriage or conversion to Judaism and for many other traditions in various Jewish communities.
A natural mikvah at Pearlston Retreat Center