Running water

Jul. 28, 2020

Having backpacked in my youth, I certainly recognize the luxury of running water. I remember using a kitchen strainer to strain out the bug larva from the stream and pond water along trail. We used iodine tables to kill the bacteria in the water, which gave me some bowel issues (I won’t go into that). When I returned home, I recall how much I appreciated indoor plumbing: turning a knob and having clean water, turning a different knob and even having hot water. How amazing and how easy to forget the luxury of that ability. Most Americans probably take this luxury for granted.

We are well aware of how the people of many poor countries must build their day around hauling water, not just among aboriginal people, but urban dwellers as well. But I was amazed to find out how many Americans suffer the same fate of hauling water for basic needs.

Are you aware that during this severe pandemic, there are over 2 million Americans that do not have access to running water or safe drinking water? Here in the United States, that is difficult to believe. This includes nearly a half a million homeless who do not have access to water and a quarter of a million Puerto Ricans who are still struggling with infrastructure after the double whammy 2017 hurricane season. And of course, the residents of Flint, Michigan who have running water, but it is too polluted with lead to use. In the Central Valley of California, residents fill bottles at public taps, because their water at home is not safe to drink. In West Virginia, people collect and drink from polluted streams. In Alabama, parents warn their children not to play outside because their yards are flooded with sewage. In Puerto Rico, wastewater regularly floods the streets of low-income neighborhoods. Families living in Texas border towns worry because there is no running water to fight fires. Water borne illness are the number one cause of students being absent from school in south Texas. In the Navajo Nation in the Southwest, families drive for hours to haul barrels of water to meet their basic needs. I hypothesize that the recent surge of covid-19 in the Four Corners area among the Navajo people is impacted by a lack of running water for sanitation. These profound water issues affect low socioeconomic communities and communities of color most often because they have no social capital. These are the truly forgotten people.

Water has become a big commodity, not just for agriculture, but also for basic human hydration. How many plastic water bottles hit the landfill on a daily? Corporate control of water resources has not been in the best interest of people or a resource that belongs to everyone. And the current combative political climate makes it difficult to propose or fund any kind of infrastructure regarding the issue of poor Americans having to haul water to their homes for basic necessities. During a pandemic.

Call me idealistic, but I just don’t think citizens in the richest country on the planet should go without the basic necessity of clean, drinkable running water in their homes.

Here is a link to a report on this issue.