I chose my home because of the kitchen. It is bright and airy with windows overlooking my backyard garden. I have appliances that my grandmother never imagined and tools that make cooking a breeze, but if I had to name the one thing in my kitchen that I appreciate the most it would be the clean water that runs readily from my faucet. It’s something that we tend to take for granted until we no longer have it. Of late I often find myself staring at it in wonder and feeling so grateful that I live in a place where it is so readily available.
Water really is life in some parts of the world and even our own country it is becoming a valuable commodity indeed. I’ve watched all summer while places in the southwest have become parched, revealing dry beds where rivers once flowed. Here in Texas two areas have been particularly stressed by drought with wells running dry and rivers that usually provide tubing fun for tourists looking like dusty trails. It has made me wonder when and even if such places will find relief.
Then there is the situation in Jackson Mississippi where citizens have been without safe water for drinking or bathing or even flushing toilets for weeks because flooding caused the old infrastructures to collapse. I can’t imagine having to endure such conditions, but it seems that we never really know when we will face a situation that threatens the availability of water in our homes.
This summer I took a carload of water to my daughter who lives in the Texas hill country because she was having difficulty finding it in stores and she was worried that the wells that provide water for her neighborhood might become dry. As it happened there was rain upon my arrival and stores also received new deliveries of bottled water, so she is fine for now, but still under restrictions that do not allow her to water outside more than once every two weeks for less than one hour. There are strict fines for those who ignore the directive.
I’ve been through a few hurricanes here in the Houston area and one of the first rules of preparation is to set aside water in case the system stops working due to damage of the systems from flooding like in Mississippi. I learned to fill my bathtubs and all of my pots and pans with water before leaving for safer, higher ground when a storm is threatening. When I return I always bring bottled water and cleaning supplies with me that I purchased just in case there is a run on them in the stores. I try to be prepared for any eventuality and I always breathe a sigh of relief when the only damage is the loss of a few shingles on my roof.
We humans are overbuilding in places that have very limited sources of water or where there is likely to be flooding during a heavy rain. We seem to be ignoring the importance of water, but our ancestors never did. They knew not to build near bayous or on river bottoms. They allowed rivers like the Mississippi to flow the way nature intended rather than attempting to arrogantly engineering changes that created problems for people whose homes were once safe. We build without considering whether or not aquifers will be able to quench expanding populations. We waste precious water on the greening of lawns rather than creating gardens of rock. We act as though our supply of water is limitless until it is not.
So when I see that lovely water running into my glass from my faucet I smile and say a little prayer of gratitude. There is nothing else in my kitchen that is more wonderful or valuable as that miraculous chemical reaction that connects two hydrogen atoms to one of oxygen. It’s all rather amazing when we really stop to think about it. Then there are the pipes that bring it to our homes after it has been treated in plants that make it pure enough to drink.
I remember my father talking excitedly about an engineering project that he was working on way back in the early nineteen fifties. it was an attempt to make potable water out of salt water from the sea. He got a glimmer in his eyes at the very thought of being able to do something that might change the fate of the world. Desalination on a grand scale was still a dream in the United States when my father died in 1957, but now it is being used more and more around the world to create fresh water. The Saudi Arabians first perfected the technique in 1938. In the 1960s it became more and more common when John F. Kennedy encouraged the perfection of desalination projects to increase the amount of clean water in our country.
Today only one percent of usable water comes from desalination and most of that is still in the Middle East. As droughts due to climate change endanger our water sources perhaps this process will become more popular even though it is an expensive process that requires a great deal of energy. We certainly need to acknowledge that clean drinking water is a requirement for life, not a luxury and make changes to the way we live to ensure that it will be around when we need it.
I enjoy my ice maker, my microwave, my stove, my refrigerator and all of the tools for my cooking, but it is beautiful clean water that I most love. I’ve learned that it is not something that any of us should take for granted. Our world is growing and we all need places to live and water to drink to take care of our needs. Water should be one of our top priorities. We should not wait until a disaster to acknowledge how much we depend on it. It is truly a source of life that each of us must have.