Clean Water: An American Expectation That’s Uncommon in Much of the World

I hope others are enjoying my 30 days of thanks posts half as much as I am. Each day up I get to talk about whatever I want, just doing it from a mindset of gratitude.

Today I want to bite off a major topic…. Much bigger than my last few days. Today I am thankful for something that is easy to overlook as Americans…. I am thankful for water. Clean drinking water everywhere I go. It is one of the most basic needs for us as humans and yet while it is an everyday American experience, clean water is hard to come by in many places.

clean drinking waterAs I start this post on Tuesday afternoon, I am sitting in the Tampa, FL with my Tervis water jug on the tabletop. It’s the same one I have carried on most travel since I bought it two years ago. Somehow during this trip, I have lost the soft rubber ring that works as a seal for the bottle. Suddenly, I have a bottle that is sweating and/or leaking. How inconvenient is that?

At the same time, I am grounded by the fact that I can get it refilled at any cafe, water fountain, etc. I could leave it empty and buy water. I could wait til I am on the plane and ask for water. That is taken for granted here in the U.S. but it’s not normal in many parts of the world. And we feel real put out when our water heater isn’t working for a day or two!

When I am traveling, I can take a swim most anywhere. There are lakes and rivers where we can go boating all over the place. I can’t remember the last time I had to stay out of the water unless it was the ocean because jelly fish were in the area or something. We really are lucky to have so much clean water and I really am thankful for all the folks who help us be good stewards of that valuable resource!

Water is Part of My Travel Experience

With the variety of travel I do, I have lots of experiences that are talked about. I’m not sure I’ve talked about water though! Some water experiences I will never forget from my travels:

  • I never had really bought bottled water growing up. Sure we would take bottled water when we went camping, but not until I was in college did I realize that some people in the US would buy water due to the age of pipes in their homes or something. The light bulb moment was while visiting friends who were living in Brooklyn for a while.
  • My first trip out of the US was to Russia when I was working on my master’s degree. I was surprised to find out the hotel I was in had no hot water that week. Not that day. That week. And it was not just the hotel but a whole section of town. That’s when I learned about the impact of a centralized system being down!
  • Thankful for clean waterBefore going to India, I was told to be very careful about water. There were things in the water my body wouldn’t be able to tolerate. So while I stayed with a friend’s family, they bought bottled water just for me. They drank out of a well in the backyard that had been put in since Geeta began working in the US, and more recently they connected running water to the house. When I went to a restaurant, I had to break the seal on the bottle myself or hear it broken at the table because bottles simply get refilled there. And I got used to seeing women and children hauling water jugs for their homes when we would drive through neighborhoods and small towns.
  • When I went to Malaysia, there were so many great homes I stayed in with friends I met who attended college in the US. And yet, the weather, the use of energy, and cultural differences etc meant that frequently bathrooms looked differently. Some had the typical US set up, some had showers like we are used to that were tied to solar heated systems, some had a system that involved using a pail to get wet & wash myself off. And I learned more about rain water recovery.
  • There was the immediate water heating at a friend’s apartment in Turkey. In the US those are fairly rare. In Turkey it was part of the energy conservation efforts. But in another part of the country, there was a huge water security effort going on as Turkey had dammed the Euphrates and was looking to provide irrigation, drinking water, etc.
  • In Japan, water is not cheap but it is readily available. And it is prized with bathrooms being places where there are multiple water options for you to check out. Some toilets have more buttons & options than the typical cable system remote!
  • Traveling around the US, you occasionally notice some differences when it comes o water. California and Arizona are where it is most common to notice thoughts on water are different. Water saving toilets are much more common out there and restaurants rarely bring water to our able unless you ask. There can be conditions that mean limits on water use for things like washing cars or watering lawns. And farmers in the area are routinely under limitations. Even in the town I used to visit often — Greenville, MS — which has brown water that is significant enough in color that filling a bathtub will creep a person out so much that hotels put up signs to confirm the coloring and yet reinforce the safety of the water as it meets all the federal and state safety guidelines.

clean water is a luxury

It used to be unheard of for other areas of the US to have that but it seems climate change and more people sharing the limited resource are a bad combination. And I have to think it will be getting worse. So I think by pausing to give thanks today for water…. Choosing clean water which usually appears to be abundant where I sit, maybe I can use my day of gratitude for water to bring attention to my growing mindfulness when it comes to this life-sustaining resource.

water saving tipsAnd I think each of us needs to be both thankful and conservation minded. It’s the little things. There is a fun website called 100+ ways to conserve water that was created by various cities, etc in Arizona. It gives lots of little tips like dishwashers are frequently more efficient than the way we wash dishes, weeding your lawn will help make sure water is available for the plants you want to grow, etc. You should check it out.

Oh and don’t worry. I went by Bed, Bath & Beyond on my way home. They got me a new seal for the water jug so I am back in business already! I will say, that the reusable bottle helps me conserve water. I don’t pour nearly as much water out anymore as I did when I would grab a bottle on my way somewhere. And I’ll also grab an umbrella as it is raining today so we are getting some great water outside!

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About Janice Person

I'm Janice & this blog is about my passions -- photography, travel, agriculture & whatever else comes to mind. Putting all those things together is intriguing to me…. I can spend a lot of time soaking it up! It's almost always a colorful adventure!

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8 Responses to Clean Water: An American Expectation That’s Uncommon in Much of the World

  1. glamazini November 6, 2013 at 5:29 pm #

    1. Being born in the Virgin Islands I’m a “beach snob” and have never stepped foot in a river or lake to swim (I can barely do the water in Florida LOL!)

    Great post and yes, we take our water and it’s quality for granted. In the Virgin Islands we collect rain water on our roofs, into gutters then into a cistern below the house.

    • Janice Person November 6, 2013 at 9:20 pm #

      Cool to know how different you have had it. I think more of us should be doing more… Just think folks are like me, a bit unsure on how to do things that would make a difference. That’s why I liked that site showing the 100 little ways. We can start with things like that and work our way up!

  2. Robyn November 6, 2013 at 7:45 pm #

    I often think about how lucky and blessed we are to have save, clean available water.

    Neat post about your travel experiences, JP.

  3. Adam Miller November 19, 2013 at 9:49 pm #

    We really are spoiled when it comes to our water, and that’s probably the reason water conservation doesn’t get a lot of attention. Coming from a small town I remember we used to bring our own water jug on away baseball games because we didn’t like the taste of the big city chemicals.

    • Janice Person November 19, 2013 at 10:20 pm #

      LOL! I hear ya. For a long time “Memphis water” was the only water I’d drink. When I went to the country, I thought that water smelled bad. Its all what you are used to.

      I think conservation is getting more attention than it has but most of us can still do much better than we are!


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