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Keep the Baby AND the Bath Water

This is an amazing time to be alive and AWAKE on this planet– aware of both the gifts and challenges in our midst. In terms of the many benefits of living first world, tonight I have a roof over my head, a tummy warmed by a friend’s chili, and the freedom to spout about it via wireless internet access. Yet, I am most appreciative of an aspect of American living that is also possibly the most taken for granted. I am within the length of my outstretched body to limitless drinking water. And I’m in my 3rd floor bedroom, some thirty-odd feet above the earth’s surface. So, how does it arrive within my reach?

Infrastructure, baby, infrastructure brings this nectar of survival to my beck and call. SunsetPrior to my career flowing into the water industry, I had already been turned on to filtration of taps and showers, thanks to relentless marketing of my then business partner’s dad. Yet deep recognition of the miracle of municipal delivery systems has only recently percolated into my daily consciousness. To me, this is legendary stuff, yet I  recall nary a mention during my schooling, and vaguely remember the inconvenience of road detours when new neighborhoods replaced farmland—the pipes for water & sewage had to be embedded and brought online.

Possibly to many, this is relatively innocuous and boring information (I hope you’re still with me). That’s because the infrastructure is working fine, thank you very much. With the hopes of energizing awareness and appreciation, two reading suggestions: 1. “Clean Water First,” part of the Economix blog offered in The New York Times (http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/06/02/clean-water-first-economic-planning-in-india/). This recent article discusses glaring shortcomings in the city of Mumbai’s ability to provide basic services to its 16 million population. It also states that, ” The most important achievement of America’s 19th-century cities was their sewers and waterworks that saved thousands of lives.” 2. A brief history of New York City’s water supply system can be found on the DEP website (http://www.nyc.gov/html/dep/html/drinking_water/history.shtml). A combination of man-made reservoirs and natural lakes,  150 miles from the taps of 8 million people have an integrated storage capacity of 580 billion gallons of water. And 95% of the delivery process is generated by gravity.

It’s a pretty simple and clear fact that access to clean water keeps us alive. The evolution of water delivery systems in North America and other modernized countries has, for the most part, kept pace with expanding populations, and for this I suggest an attitude of gratitude. Now, I could rant on other areas of infrastructure gaffes and governmental miscues that make me very angry, yet when my throat gets dry, I immediately and easily reach for hydration. I also understand that shortcomings exist in America’s water works, as noted in previous articles. The source of these defects is us—we, the people and our overly-developed lifestyles are the cause of poor water quality.

Where there is challenge, within lies opportunity. As noted that many water delivery systems originate from the nineteenth century, repair and replacement issues are relatively widespread, especially in large urban areas. Herein lies a possible solution. The potential to combine attitude adjustment and ingenuity can derive significant results. For example, If fresh, clean ground water was regarded as precious in this country, then gray water would be the standard source for watering lawns, gardens and flushing toilets. Today, there is possibly only a smattering of gray water used for these purposes and flushless toilets remain in freak-land or YMCA camps. Well, as a registered and glad-about-it freak, saving 3.4 gallons every time I use the toilet is my way of going flushless. Call me mellow yellow, if you like. And promoting gray water systems at the consumer level as an integral part of infrastructure upgrades is an idea whose time is now. Get on board, all readers, and spread the news. It is possible to energize change on a mass scale, and doing so out of desire, harmony and sharing is the far better alternative compared to death-defying necessity. Therefore, I say, keep the baby AND the bath water. We as a species will ultimately benefit.