By Sarah Hippensteel Hall, manager for watershed partnerships
You turn the on the faucet and good quality water comes out it, right? But what if it didn’t?
Imagine a day without water. In the first hour alone, you couldn’t flush the toilet, brush your teeth, take a shower or make a cup of coffee. Beyond your personal needs, firefighters couldn’t save your house or business, medical staff couldn’t treat you with clean hands. Businesses would be forced to close, and the economy would grind to a halt.
Try living without water for a day – or even half a day. Life becomes a major struggle.
We don’t give water a thought, but it’s time we did. We need to make water a priority in our lives and in our communities.
Did you know?
- 46 percent of US lakes and 43 percent of US rivers are polluted and unsafe for swimming or fishing.
- Around the world, 1 of 5 children that dies under the age of 5 does so from exposure to polluted water.
- And by 2025, 3.5 billion people will be facing water shortages.
Threats to water
Water can be threatened when pollution from cities, farms, and industry runs off the land and into rivers and lakes or drains down into the groundwater. The City of Toledo had no access to safe drinking water when toxins were sucked out of Lake Erie and sent into the drinking water supply chain.
The other challenge to safe water is the notion of “out of sight, out of mind.” Water and wastewater systems are large, hidden infrastructure systems that ensure we are able to go about our daily routines without a second thought. They work 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year to bring clean, safe water to us and take it away after we use it to be treated before it is safely released back into the environment. Unlike potholes on roads, these systems – many of which were built more than 100 years ago – don’t show their age as easily. But a broken water system is absolutely devastating.
Living without drinking water across the US
The City of Flint, Michigan experienced how terrible life is without safe, reliable water when lead was found at unhealthy levels. Beach goers along the Great Lakes are accustomed to seeing beach closure signs because untreated-sewage overflows make water unsafe for swimming, and local lakes have tested positive for toxic algae.
Residents from South Carolina to West Virginia to Texas have lost water and wastewater service because of terrible flooding in the last several years. There’s been a humanitarian crisis going on in Puerto Rico after a devastating hurricane earlier this year. These communities know that a day without water is a crisis.
If we are lucky, we won’t see these kinds of challenges, but we can’t count on luck. We need to take action. You don’t need to be a water expert – you just need to be a water advocate. Making water a priority means:
- Supporting spending to fix the problems.
- Strengthening laws that protect our water.
- Voting for people who care about your life and your health and will do anything to protect the one thing we can’t live without: Water.
More than just an environmental issue
Water is not just an environmental issue.
It’s an economic issue.
It’s a jobs issue.
It’s a health issue.
Someday, it may be a national security issue.
So what is water worth to you? And what are you willing to do to protect it? It’s time to make it personal.
Note: MCD recently joined 750 organizations to promote the annual Imagine a Day Without Water Day. Together these groups hosted tours and open houses, wrote blogs and op-eds, issued resolutions, posted videos and more. Social media activities generated more than 6 million impressions using #ValueWater. Locally, we participated in four, live interviews on FOX45’s morning show and posted daily on social media.