Thursday, August 20, 2015

Is the Water Safe to Drink?

I gave a knee-jerk reaction, "Yes," without adding "of course." But thinking about the question later, I realized the reason for the question.

Raised in the US in rural New York state, lived in South Carolina and later Texas, traveled throughout Europe, I kind of took clean drinking water for granted. Maybe the water pressure in the shower varied (especially in Argeles-sur-mer during the summer tourist invasion), and maybe the tap water tasted a bit different here and there, but never anything objectionable or unsafe.

The questioner was Syrian, only recently permitted to leave that war-ravaged country earlier this year and now living in France. He and his wife were visiting us in Switzerland. I realized that in his home nation, and perhaps some of the places he traveled as a journalist, he could not always rely on the local water being "potable."

Millions of Syrians now live in refugee camps, and in many cities still 'standing' the infrastructure of plumbing, sewage, electricity has been reduced to rubble. Lack of decent sanitation and water facilities is contributing to outbreaks of disease that sweep through the camps.

A similar situation for displaced families in the Ukraine conflict. Israeli-controlled Gaza. Many places in Africa, Haiti (remember them?) and elsewhere. According to UNICEF, "663 million people still lack access to improved drinking water."

A friend is now working for Global WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) - They're spearheading a variety of projects to try to create the type of clean water conditions most of us assume as a natural consequence of modern society. I encourage you to read up on the campaign.

Of course, the CEO of Nestle and other multinational corporations don't think human beings have any right to "free" water. While California dries up, for example, Nestle continues to suck up scarce water so they can sell it back to you in their plastic bottles -

I know some people don't care to hear about the problems and suffering around the world. Easier to lead a comfortable life and ignore the pain elsewhere. I'm glad I've finally been exposed to many of these issues that the global community struggles with. The US is not an island, and it needs to think more about the people of the whole world, not just itself.

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