I’ve lived in America for almost my entire life. Which means that when I wake up in the morning, I take at most twelve steps to the bathroom to wash my face, brush my teeth, and do whatever else I have to do to get ready for the day. Sometimes I’ll go for a run or do some yoga with a bottle of water at my side. Then it’s back to the bathroom for a nice warm shower. On most days I have a cup of coffee with my breakfast. Then finally I’ll fill up my reusable water bottle and get on with the rest of my day. All of this happens before noon and I’ve already used more than five gallons (eighteen liters) of water–which is more than the amount of water several families have to survive an entire day on.
For the most part, I like to think I’m fairly aware of the privileges I have as an American citizen. Clean water is one of them. I mean, we use it for everything–drinking, cooking, cleaning, bathing. And most of us don’t even bat an eyelash over it. We just walk to one of the many faucets we probably have in our house and it’s immediately at our disposal. And I was the same way. Until recently.
So my day without water was actually more of an accident than a purposeful social experiment. My water payment at my house just happened to fall through, and my roommate couldn’t pay the bill in person until the next day, so the company shut off our water. And it was incredibly inconvenient. For one, neither of us expected it. We just woke up and there was a notice on our front door telling us our water would be turned off until our payment was settled in full. After our initial shock and annoyance, we decided to just get on with our day. What more could we do? I figured I’d be in and out of the house running errands and doing work anyone, so how hard could it be? Extremely.
I had to brush my teeth and wash my face with a bottle of water I just happened to fill up the day before. But then I was out of water. As I was getting dressed for the day, I realized I hadn’t washed my hair. Because I was planning to do it that morning. Guess that was out of the question. I wasn’t even in the right mindset to get ready for the day because I had to go to the bathroom so badly. But you can’t flush a toilet without running water. It wasn’t even noon and my whole routine was completely thrown off.
And I think that was my biggest problem with the whole situation. I didn’t know how to live without clean water because I’d never had to. Billions of people across the globe–most in sub-Saharan Africa–have to go to extreme lengths for clean water. Sometimes the nearest river or well is multiple kilometers away, and it’s highly possible this water source isn’t protected from contamination. This responsibility is often burdened to women, who have to make these trips several times a day in extreme heat and unsafe conditions. Even if a city or country has accessible drinking water, there’s a chance this water isn’t offered every day or even all day–this is the case for my grandmother who lives in the Philippines.
I didn’t write this post to persuade you to use less water or to donate to water-conscious charities. But why not? While conditions still aren’t great in many of these places, there are organizations actively looking for solutions–FACE Africa, the Water Project, and charity: water are just a few. We can all do our part to help. And if nothing else, at least this spontaneous project opened my eyes to how grateful I should be to live in a place with running water.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read about such an important cause. And if you’d like to lend a hand in the fight for clean water, make sure to check out those nonprofits I listed above. I’ll talk to you guys next week!