The first thing I do when I get home in the evening is wash my hands. It’s a habit. It seems prudent after being in city public. So it was a surprise two days ago when I arrived to my apartment, opened the faucet and nothing came out. No water, not a drop. I tried another faucet. Nothing. I had plans for tap water that evening, not the least of which was drinking. I soon discovered that the building had a problem with the water tank on the roof and the result was that we’d be out of water for a while. All of a sudden, my hands felt even dirtier.
As I was pondering the situation, my neighbor knocked on the door and asked if I would watch her kids while she ran out to buy water. It wasn’t long before she returned with a case of 12oz bottles. She gave me two. She wanted to give me more, but she had kids and I figured two would get me by. I tried to be as efficient as possible, but it took one entire bottle for a semi-thorough hand washing.
I wasn’t in the mindset to head back out after just arriving, but I clearly had to do something. What was I going to do for dinner? I needed water, and more than one or two bottles. I wasn’t in the spirit to eat out or order something delivered. I had an evening meal already planned: thinly toasted 100% rye pumpernickel with whole rye and molasses bread, topped with a (grass-fed) creamy Italian gorgonzola (purchased on the way home), with slices of fresh organic Jersey tomatoes, and a ripe California Haas avocado. Tonight’s small feast was supposed to be these open-faced sandwiches. Thin. The kind I could get my mouth around.
I could have done all that with little water, but the plan was to drizzle olive oil on the toast, possibly making things a little messy. I had to wash the tomatoes. Then there would be cleanup, the kitchen and myself. How would I do all of this with a small bottle of water?
We take fresh running water for granted. It’s always there at the flip or turn of our wrist. Most of us don’t give access to water a second thought. And because we don’t think too much about it, we tend to waste, pollute and flush most of it. Of all the water on earth, only 1% is fresh and drinkable (97% is salty, and 2% is frozen).
But as much as we waste it, we’ve also gotten creative. We turn waste water into drinkable water. By thorough treatment and some reverse osmosis, some cities have learned how to funnel water from toilet to tap.
There are thousands of desalination plants around the world with some of the largest in the middle east. In the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, a large percentage of potable water running through home faucets is desalinated seawater.
In Lima, Peru, a heavily populated coaster desert capital where it rarely rains, there’s been some headway collecting the heavily moist air from billboards.
Point is, we are creative about this basic requirement of always having a running tap. But we actually only use a small percent of what comes out.
After contemplating how I was going to clean up after dinner, I determined that I did, in fact, need to go out for water. Before I left I gave the faucet another try. Water gushed out and a giddy feeling came over me. I actually giggled (I think). Wow, water flowing freely, what a treasure (I was thinking). How could something seemingly so banal that we have at our fingertips all throughout the day make me feel so elated? But I was.
The sandwiches were delicious and the giddy feeling is gone. I’m sure the temporary appreciation when opening the faucet to running water will soon fade. In the meantime, I’d better stock up and have bottled water on standby for the faucet’s next surprise. Better still, perhaps I should consider water the valuable resource it is, and respect the faucet’s gift by letting it run less freely.