Saturday, May 13, 2006
Water - How Much?
Water, turn on the tap and gurgling life gushes forth. How easy it is to take this luxury for granted. Do you know how much water you use in a day? Have you ever given it a thought? Most people in the world must know; for them clean water is not readily available.
It was an eye-opening experience traveling in Turkey to be responsible every day for the water we wanted to consume. Water streamed out of the facet in our comfortable and modern hotel room, but the water was not consumable. In the picturesque heart of Istanbul’s old city, our room had a sign taped above the bathroom sink warning us not to drink the tap water or use it for brushing our teeth.
If you had a bottle of drinking water to last you 24 hours, would you remember to save enough for brushing your teeth or for a swallow or two when you wake up in the middle of the night? How much water do you need to brush your teeth?
The Turkish travel company that arranged our trip had a unique policy: every lunch included in our tour package came with drinking water. For all of the other travelers we encountered water was treated like any other beverage, it was an additional charge.
How much are you willing to pay for drinking water? Do you know how much it weighs? Are you willing to purchase water in 3 liter bottles to ensure a better price, knowing that then you will have the burden of carrying the extra weight?
It took us a few days and a couple of experiences paying for expensive small bottles of water from the hotel minibars to get an understanding of how much water we, two adults, needed over the course of a day. Without taking in to account, cooking, bathing, lavatories or laundry, we each simply drank 2 to 3 liters of water every day. We bought large bottles and poured their contents into small bottles for use during the day. We stocked up when we found it at a good price. We bartered for it when fellow travelers misjudged their own liquid needs. It was an ever-present concern, did we have enough drinking water? Did we need more? When we needed more, would be able to find it?
Looking out my office window at the verdant trees, gardens and lawns designed to mimic an English countryside in a Mediterranean climate, I know all of this green is dependent on a tap that turns on and delivers water. An ever-growing human population in southern California requires more and more water. Where will it come from? Who or what will we take it from?
My great grandfather was born in a small high-desert town in the Owen’s Valley. He was a young man when the residents there decided to lease their water rights for 99 years to the burgeoning metropolis of Los Angeles. He said he always knew the people of the Owen’s Valley would regret selling what they couldn’t replace: water.
When I watch the goldfinches waiting in line to sip from my neighbor’s slowly leaking sprinkler head or observe the California towhee splashing gleefully in the bird bath, I see in them a true understanding of the precious nature of water. As summer heats up, more species of birds will visit my backyard for the small pool of fresh water than for the birdseed in the feeders.
Clean water, most living things can’t survive without it. How much did you use today? If you couldn’t turn on the tap, if you couldn’t buy it, where would you get it from?