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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Water

This morning as I was taking a shower, my mind turned to water...perhaps because it was streaming down on me or because I had sweated out so much in a pre-dawn 100 degree heat index workout...or because a water main broke last night, spilling over 40 million gallons of water. Forty million gallons of clean water...wasted. Of course, no one meant for the main to break, so maybe I should say lost instead of wasted.

Then I thought about one of my early conversations with the SCNs (Sisters of Charity of Nazareth) about volunteering in India. Chatra, the place I will be spending 3 months, sometimes has so little water that food cannot be prepared at the school. When I heard this, I asked if, given the possible water shortage, I'd have water to bathe. When I received the answer that there would be enough water to bathe and that it was mainly the school and food prep that would be affected by a water shortage, I felt, I'm not even sure how to put it into words. Petty. Selfish. How important is it if I bathe if there are kids not able to eat because there isn't enough water?

Here in the States, most of us never have to worry about access to clean water unless something goes wrong like a water main break. We turn a knob and out comes all the water we could ever want at whatever temperature we desire. Though I wasn't present to hear it, I heard that a friend talked about people like us as "faucet people." The magic faucet gives us water in abundance and we don't give a second thought to our use until the magic faucet stops working.

Meanwhile, in many other places in the world, getting water means walking, sometimes miles, to a stream or a well, filling a jug, and hauling it home. The water may or may not be clean. There are also those who are currently fleeing their homelands, who are walking to the nearest refugee camp, who have no shelter, no possessions, and certainly have no faucets and likely do not even have access to streams or any other source of water. I'll bet they'd like some of the 40 million gallons pouring out of our water main.

As I write this, my truth is this: I'm not sure what to do about this disparity in water access. Or maybe I do know and just don't want to face it. Instead of being a mindless faucet person, I need to be a thinking water conserver. I know I need to use less water, but after so long as a faucet person, it's hard to break my overconsumption habits. I know I need to support organizations that work to improve access to potable water (Edge Outreach at www.edgeoutreach.com would be a good local project to support). I hope that when I am in India, I will become more mindful of the water I use there and that I can come home and live like I know how precious our water is.

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