Thursday, October 14, 2010

In Honor of Water-Blog Action Day!

You may or may not know, but today is Blog Action Day. It's a pretty cool annual event that unites the world's bloggers in posting about the same issue on the same day.  The idea? Raise awareness and trigger a global discussion around an important issue that impacts us all. This year's topic? Water.

Not unlike many people in the developed world, I take water for granted. I assume that when I turn on my water faucet, water - and, more specifically, clean water, will flow abundantly. I also assume that the waterways that are so key to my personal grounding - and my recreation--will not only continue to exist, but be healthy, clean and full of life. (Not likely, given that 40 percent of America's rivers and 46 percent of America's lakes are too polluted for fishing, swimming or aquatic life.)

I take these things for granted - and, yet, I have personally experienced and/or seen that water - let alone clean water -- should not be taken for granted:

I grew up in rural Maine on a 55-acre hobby farm. Blueberries, chickens, sheep, pigs and acres and acres of Maine loveliness. But, a decade after moving into this home, we were no longer able to drink our well water thanks to groundwater contamination from a now-designated Superfund site that was miles from our home. For more than a year, my family was forced to take showers in the local public school locker rooms and cart bottled water home for drinking and cooking. Not horrible in the scheme of life, I know, but a hardship for us at the time. Eventually, the groundwater contamination situation meant our rural home was piped into town/city water. Since then, while I love the taste (and the concept of) well water, I'm a pretty big believer in town/city water.  

I've also seen time and time again (I am - or at least I was pre-children - an avid traveler - the developing world my preferred destination!) that in the developing world, water, particularly clean water, is a rare commodity. In Africa, women walk miles and miles (Continent-wide, African women walk 40 billion hours each year to fetch water for their families!) to collect water to bring to their families. Sadly, all that hard work, and, in all likelihood, their families are drinking water that potentially threatens their lives. It's true. In fact, almost a billion people on the planet don't have access to clean, safe drinking water.That means one in eight of us are subjected to preventable disease and even death. 

I have also witnessed the powerful impact of "water wars" in a California region near and dear to my family's heart. Critical ecosystems have been drastically affected (huge efforts are reversing this trend, thankfully!) by the water demands of the City of Los Angeles hundreds of miles away. 

As I sit here writing, I sip on a glass of clean water from my kitchen faucet. I am grateful. I am hopeful that today as bloggers around the world unite on this issue that we are making a step towards ensuring that everyone can have access to clean water. It is a matter of life and death.

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