12 November 2012

Clean, Clear Water

It was the lettuce that got me thinking.  A head of lettuce from the farm, still shedding soil.  I looked at it on day three or four of our power outage and realized I couldn't eat it, unless I was willing to wash it at the fire hydrant while other people stood in line for water.

And then I realized I have no idea how people live in a drought, or in places without access to clean water for drinking and bathing.

I'm not talking about the kind of drought we get on the east coast of the United States every few years, where they tell you not to water the grass.  Nor even the drought we had in the west and midwest last summer, that cut corn yields and drove up prices and contributed to wildfires.

I'm talking about the kind of drought that caused famine in several north African countries last summer.  I know we have hunger in the US; there are significant numbers of people who can't be sure they'll get enough to eat tomorrow.  But in Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia last year, people were dying for lack of food.

And according to UNICEF, there are 2.5 billion people around the world who don't have access to clean water.

I have no idea what that could possibly be like.  I can't imagine it.

Yes, I go camping, and use iodine tablets or a filter to purify water.  But I am so fully embedded in privileged access to clean running water at any time of day or night that I can not get my mind around what it would be like to live without it in my home.

After the power came back on, and then the water, and then the heat, I soaked the lettuce, limp by then, in some cold clean water for a few hours, and then made a salad.

For much of the world, the water isn't coming back on.  And our first-world over-consumption is only going to make it worse.