This morning my apartment was suddenly without water, due to a broken water main down the street. This was the second time in two weeks that this happened. Last time, I had just arrived home from a five-night bicycle/camping trip, so I did not think about much except the fact that I desperately wanted to take a shower and could not. This time, I was in a more musing frame of mind and as I walked down the street to see their progress in fixing it I started thinking. It suddenly sank in how very much for granted I take running water. Not only running water, but clean running water. It is simply a given in my life that water will be there when I need or want it, and it was quite disturbing to suddenly be lacking that. Of course, I knew it was only for a few hours, so it did not cause me too much stress.
Being able to simply go to the faucet in my kitchen or bathroom and obtain clean water whenever I am thirsty is a privilege. Being able to use as much water as I want to bathe or do laundry is a privilege. According to the United Nations World Health Organization, there are over 1 billion people in this world without this privilege, without “access to improved water supply.” That number is staggering in and of itself, but it is also important to realize that those 1 billion people are concentrated in certain regions of the world. For example, in Africa, “2 out of 5 people lack an improved water supply.” My small annoyance at my few water-less hours seems trivial when I face the fact that there are people out there for whom finding clean water is a challenge every single day. For whom, in fact, clean water may not even be an option – who must instead suffer health problems from drinking contaminated water.
Water – clean, safe, and plentiful – is a basic necessity in life. Addressing this issue falls under the role of “provider” (see my earlier post on the third side). Conflicts can arise much more easily when people’s basic needs are not met, and providing for those needs is a prerequisite to creating a peaceful society. Every person in this world should be able to take water as much for granted as I do.