Water issues bring to light plight of world

Water sputtered out of my faucet on a Thursday morning in March.

I didn’t think much of it at the time, but soon after, texts started lighting up my phone.

Have you heard? Don’t drink the water today. Possible contamination. Check the city’s Facebook post.

If you live in Hillsboro, you know what I’m talking about. As a result of an issue at the water tower, city officials feared possible contamination and placed the city under a precautionary boil water advisory.

For me, the timing could not have been worse. I had a full day of baking planned, and the inconvenience didn’t fit into my schedule. How ironic that the resource used for washing and making things clean was suddenly declared dirty. It messed with my head.

I ran to the store for a couple gallons of water—a popular commodity that day. Talk of water dominated the friendly chatter as most of us pushed shopping carts carrying water in bottles and gallons. When I got home, I put a pan of tap water on the stove to boil and prepared to bake.

Mentally, I was a mess. The stress of the water had delayed my baking, and I didn’t handle the complication well. I allowed a slight inconvenience to influence my outlook.

The more I thought about it, though, I realized how privileged I am to live in a place with access to clean water on a daily basis and how wrong I was to complain. On the rare occasion where the water coming out of my faucet is compromised, I have the luxury of hopping in the car and running to the store for bottled water, or putting a pan on the stove to boil and sanitize. Those are privileges I take for granted. How dare I complain when people in many parts of the world don’t have access to even the most basic of needs—clean water?

In Venezuela, for example, power outages caused people to have to search for water from unclean sources, including a polluted river. I cannot imagine what that would be like.

World Water Day was observed Friday, March 22, only a few weeks after the Hillsboro boil water advisory was lifted, providing additional perspective.

According to World Health Organization and UNICEF statistics reported on the World Water Day 2019 Factsheet, 2.1 billion people do not have safe water in their homes. One in four primary schools does not have a drinking water service, forcing students to drink from unprotected sources or go without water. More than 700 children under the age of 5 die daily from diarrhea as a result of unsafe water and poor sanitation. And around 159 million people collect water to drink from ponds and streams.

I wake up each morning with access to the life-giving resource directly from my tap. I don’t want to take that lightly.

In Hillsboro during the boil water advisory, I knew my access to clean tap water would soon be restored, and it was. After not even 48 hours without clean water—which was maybe not even contaminated in the first place—our water was declared safe and the advisory was lifted.

Many people never have the luxury of clean water out of the tap. Who was I to complain?

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