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Water Hero - Water Consciousness Runs Deep for William "Waterway" Marks

by Johnny Burnham July 24, 2015

Long before he became an award-winning author, spoke before the United Nations, founded an environmental research institute, investigated industrial pollution in rivers, traveled the world, blossomed into one of the more influential advocates for water, and even took on the name “Waterway,” William E. Marks had built up a strong relationship with the element.  

That bond, that want and desire to protect and advocate for the world’s H2O began as a youngster growing up on a farm, often times one in which the water supply was scarce.

“Water for our farm was also vital to our farm animals and to the survival of our plants that provided food for our family and for selling at our roadside farm stand. During the occasional drought we would resort to walking around the garden and watering those plants that needed water the most,” Waterway said. “This embedding of a relationship with water at a young age created a water consciousness that has stayed with me to this day. I see everything in this world becoming manifest through the miracle of water.”

That early connection has led to many endeavors, accomplishments and certainly places in his life — including publishing, designing and editing the book “Water Voices from Around the World” for the United Nations. It’s the project in which Waterway said he is most proud of. It contains the work of 77 authors — many of whom are renowned leaders who have had an influence on the future of water on Earth, as well as Nobel Peace Prize and Stockholm Water Prize winners — from over 50 countries. It also features the work of 250 photographers.

“Water Voices may be viewed as a visual and visceral journey into the esoteric and mystical worlds of water, while the letter and articles from leaders around the globe offer new insights and unique research efforts about this rare and precious entity,” he said.

The book is the first in U.N. history to be distributed to every leader of all United Nations' member states.

But Waterway left his mark both before and after the publication of “Water Voices.”

As an undergraduate at Fairleigh Dickinson University he investigated fish kills and industrial pollution of rivers as a self-defined “extracurricular research project,“ while at the same time researching environmental law with a focus on water law. He did more than just dive into the issues, he took action. Waterway submitted his evidence of pollution to the U.S. Attorneys’ office, resulting in a major industry being indicted by a Federal Grand Jury based off his water testing and photographs. He was the first citizen in the Eastern part of the country to accomplish such a feat.

After college Waterway took to the road, traveling Europe and Northwestern Africa to explore a vast range of water sites, projects, rivers and watersheds. He visited, lived with, and learned from the tribes in the Sahara most affected by drought and desertification. He returned to the U.S.  and took the role as Senior Environmental Analyst for the City of Newark, N.J. where he focused on reducing pollution discharges by waterfront businesses on the Passaic River.

Shortly thereafter, he embarked on a 7,500 mile horseback trek from California to Maine — he dubbed it “A Ride for Nature.” His journey lasted nearly two years. To say he became one with nature is an understatement.

“I became acclimated to living outside with the two horses as a way of life. This way of life was similar to that of many early cultures, including that of our forefathers. The importance of locating potable water was vital for the survival of my two horses, never mind myself. I almost had one horse die of dehydration after crossing a section of the Senora Desert during a time of drought,” he recalled. “Along my traversing trek across America I intentionally and through serendipity communed with various water bodies. I lost count of all the rivers and streams I crossed. I worked on ranches, farms and spoke at colleges to earn my way across America.”

He “re-entered” society following his ramble from one coast to the other and got right back to work, setting up a state-certified water testing lab on Martha’s Vineyard. He owned and operated the lab for 14 years. He also founded Vineyard Environmental Research, Inst. for the purpose of researching acid rain, coastal erosion, aquifer contamination and wetlands. During the 1980s he saved three lighthouses (Gay Head, East Chop, Edgartown Harbor) on Martha’s Vineyard from being torn down.

“Eventually I left the corporate structured existence and began writing books and speaking about water, which is basically what I do today,” he added.

In all, Waterway’s water research and speaking engagements have taken him to 15 countries. His writings and water research have been featured on TV talk shows and in documentaries and published by National Geographic, and featured by CNN, MSNB,; MVTV, CBS, NBC, ABC, NPR, UPI, the Associated Press and several others. He has been recognized by a number of environmental organizations, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, for his work in protecting water.

But for him, it’s not about awards, honors or recognition. It’s about doing what he has always believed to be right — advocating for H2O.

“Basically, it is vital for our survival that we become a water-conscious species who considers every choice on the basis of how that choice relates to water,” Waterway said.

Johnny Burnham
Johnny Burnham


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