“It’s a hole of greenery where a river sings, madly clinging to the grasses with its silver rags», admirably wrote Arthur Rimbaud, in one of his most beautiful works! Water is here, in the eyes of the poet, the symbol of a calm and peaceful landscape, suitable for rest and meditation. But this is only one side of a small molecule with a thousand faces! As a liquid, it may take on the appearance of fine droplets that slowly seep from underground cave ceilings or concentrate into joyful springs that will feed many streams and other majestic rivers, before getting lost, as roaring waves, in the immensity of the seas and oceans. Solid, the water turns into gigantic alpine glaciers, powdery snow, immaculate pack ice drifts or dangerous icebergs! Gaseous, finally, it forms a greyish fog that drapes the landscape with a melancholic haze or condenses into huge fluffy clouds, a prelude to thunderstorms and torrential rains. Hence, water passes through all its states – liquid, solid and gaseous – during a fundamental “hydrological cycle”, over and over again.
The symbolism of water
It is mainly in the form of a fluid that water has marked human civilization without exception. According to Greek thought, water is, along with earth, air and fire, one of the four classical elements of the world and many deities are dedicated to it: from the irascible Poseidon, master of the seas, to the titanic Ocean, which surrounds the known universe, to the beautiful Aphrodite, goddess of love, born from sea foam. The destructive power of water – like the terrible biblical flood that swept away corrupted humanity, except for Noah’s Ark – reflects divine anger! Man must then repair his errors using purifying and redemptive water of baptism or various ablutions. He will finally regain health thanks to healing water and life will be able to resume its more or less tortuous course, like that of streams, torrents, or rivers… For water is the source of all life!
H2O, a vital molecule
Life! A unique phenomenon born from a primordial soup of carbon atoms and water! A primitive broth that slowly thickened until the first micro-organisms appear, followed by increasingly complex life forms, all composed of water in various proportions and all dependent on this precious molecule… the famous H2O (or H-O-H) of chemists! Today there are millions of species, all derived from a common ancestor, which inhabit the tiny planet we call Earth… An inappropriate name to say the least when we know that this unique celestial body – probably the only one to harbour life – is made of more than 70% water! Yet, most water reserves, being it solid, fluid or gaseous, and known as hydrosphere, are composed of salt water (97%), while fresh water, which is essential for any life being, is scarce (3%)!
The Anthropocene, a threat to fresh water?
With man’s stranglehold on nature, a period that some call the Anthropocene, the fresh water cycle is being severely threatened. In the first place, a large part is being used for agricultural purposes, be it for livestock farming or the ever more intensive fodder cultivation. The industrial sector is also very water-demanding, either as a raw material, solvent, hydroelectric source or coolant. Finally, drinking water is consumed for domestic needs (hygiene, food, leisure) of a constantly growing population with significant disparities between geographic regions… if many countries content themselves with 25 l per inhabitant a day, others happily waste 300!
Save the blue gold!
But the game is not over yet! Everyone can make a sustainable contribution. At Cervo-Volante, we produce our own leather in a totally eco-friendly way, using a natural tanning process with a very small ecological footprint. One of our goals is to save as much water as possible at each manufacturing stage.
Our hides originate from the control of natural wild populations of Swiss red deer. This local supply avoids the ecological costs associated with intensive farming (important water requirements, eutrophication of small watercourses, etc.) or long-distance imports (high carbon accounting) and promotes sustainable production in the long term. The raw skins are air dried without salt, thereby reducing the consumption of rinsing water and the eventual pollution of surface water by sodium chloride! The absence of chemical pre-tanning steps, based on synthans or aldehydes that favour the penetration of the tannic agent, also prevents contamination of fragile, aquatic ecosystems. Finally, the use of natural tannins makes it possible to banish all the problems related to the – almost generalized – use of toxic chromium, such as the accumulation in rivers during the extraction and elimination processes, the potential chronic poisoning of the local workforce in developing countries, or the saturation of the leather with heavy metals.
Water at Cervo Volante
As always at Cervo Volante, the leitmotif is: let’s save nature! Our vegetable tanning method is thought out at each step in terms of potential ecological load. The price of quality and uniqueness, of environmental protection, of a future beyond 2050 is intimately tied with the saving and safeguarding of the most precious resource of our blue planet… Welcome to a world where H-O-H stands for Hope for Organisms and Habitats!
Micropollutants and nutrients in watercourses Since 2011, the federal government and the cantons have been jointly monitoring of the status of watercourses since 2011. The nutrient load in some watercourses is still too high, in the case of phosphate by around 30%. Numerous micropollutants were detected, some in concentrations that are problematic for aquatic life. The most frequent causes were residues from pesticides from agriculture and pharmaceuticals from sewage treatment plants. The concentrations detected indicate that micropollutants in Swiss watercourses may be partly responsible for the deficits in biodiversity. Results of the National Surface Water Quality Monitoring 2011-2014 can be found here: https://www.bafu.admin.ch/dam/bafu/de/dokumente/wasser/uz-umwelt-zustand/zustand_der_schweizerfliessgewaesser.pdf.download.pdf/zustand_der_schweizerfliessgewaesser.pdf
Pesticides, industrial chemicals and drug residues in streams. In the canton of St. Gallen, small streams have been regularly examined for their water quality since 2011. At all streams examined in 2018, the quality criteria were exceeded. In the most extreme case, the water quality was insufficient by a factor of 160, mainly due to pesticides but also to residues of medicines or industrial chemicals. Particular care is needed when handling pesticides or other harmful substances. In the case of insecticides, even the smallest amounts can be toxic or even fatal for the creatures in the stream. After all, small streams make up 75 percent of the cantonal watercourse network in the canton of St. Gallen. About half of them are located in used areas. Their protection is of great importance for water bodies and biodiversity. https://www.sg.ch/news/sgch_allgemein/2019/07/chemikalien-belasten-gewaesser.html
Animated video on the status of Swiss watercourses: