Water in America

Aug 6, 2014

We all know that the best cup of tea starts with good water. If your water contains chlorine or heavy minerals, it’ll be impossible to achieve the tastiest tea brew. I am fortunate that I have access to clean, delicious water at home and at work. Most of the time I take it for granted.  When I turn on the tap, I expect that I’ll receive decent, healthy water.

Every once and awhile though we need to step back and look at these things we take for granted. Imagine if when I turned on the water I did not enjoy good water. Imagine that when I turned on the taps brown water came out, or water with harmful chemicals, or bad tasting water . Imagine if I turned on the taps and nothing came out. Or imagine if I didn’t have indoor plumbing and I had to take a bucket to a water source and carry it home, always hoping that the supply has not been contaminated. This is the reality for many people on the planet.

I suppose that most of the time I tend to think that people without water must be living far away, in a place not as “sophisticated” as the US. The unfortunate reality is that there are many Americans who don’t have access to this basic survival need.

There are over 300,000 people in Detroit who are struggling in today’s economy and who cannot pay their water bills. They are currently facing shut off notices from the Detroit Water & Sewage Department (DWSD). Since Detroit is in bankruptcy, and with half of the city not paying water bills, the DWSD was hoping to be able to reclaim some of the over $100 million owed. Hence, shut off notices were sent out and many people lost their access to water.

In a world where we can feel detached from other people’s problems, it’s refreshing that 2 women remind us of how connected we can be. Their project, called The Detroit Water Project, is helping people pay their water bills by connecting people willing to pay someone’s bills directly with the DWSD. Donors have been lining up to help those affected, and the DWSD has recently declared a moratorium on shut offs.

Also in the news quite recently were water problems in Toledo, Ohio. The water supply for the area was contaminated from algae bloom forcing the city to shut off water on Saturday (August 2nd).  The ban luckily was lifted on Monday.  During the ban, over 400, 000 residents were instructed not to drink the water or use it to brush their teeth or cook with. In fact, boiling the water increased the toxicity of the water. Hopefully Toledo can now implement steps to prevent this from happening in the future.

Unfortunately these are not isolated cases in the US. There was a chemical spill in January that affected water supplies in West Virginia, there have been multiple instances of droughts in different parts of the US affecting millions of people, there are new pollutants turning up in different water supplies, the list goes on.  There are hundreds of well written articles to be read on the subject of cause and effect as well as what we can do to ensure that there is adequate, healthy water for the future.

Water is a precious resource.  I’ll try to be more conscientious about my good fortune in the future.  I’ll certainly be more thoughtful when I go put on the kettle now for a cup of tea!

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