Watery thoughts

mile end water towerThere’s a boil-water advisory on here in Montreal.

The announcement came out about noon yesterday, just as I was meeting Brenda of burnsthefire for lunch, and the sweet young waitress seemed lost and confused as she almost served us presumably un-safe tea.  After lunch, B & I went for a walk, then there was a mad dash to get the girl I’m babysitting to her tutor at the other end of the city, and while she was at the tutor I hit up the local grocery store for bottled water.  Two bottles were left on the shelf, and a man stood in front of me, reaching for one of them.  We exchanged sheepish glances and shrugs as I reached for the last bottle.

Back at the apartment I started boiling big pots of water, put the girl to bed and was so tired and thirsty but realized our bottled water supplies were limited and the boiled water was

a) hot and

b) still looking a pretty dirty shade of orange

so I rooted around in the fridge and found some beer and drank that.

(Note to self:  beer is not quite the same as water.  Not a good idea to quench thirst that has been growing all day, craving water, with beer.  Somewhere in the night I tweeted something garbled and incoherent and perhaps vaguely sweet (if you’re feeling generous) to Brain_Rants, a very new acquaintance who I should be trying to impress with cleverness and panache.  Oops.)

Anyway – the water advisory.  It’s one of those things where nobody seems to know quite what’s going on and why, but in a funny way, people begin to connect over the unusualness of the situation, the strangeness becoming a point of conversation, opening up new pathways for human interaction.

I remember the ice storm back in ’98, and how we made great new friends while hanging out at the public shelter the YMCA on Ave du Parc had set up, sharing strategies for cooking food with no electricity, trading tips on which stores were still open, running on generators.

Photo by Shawn Moreton
Photo by Shawn Moreton

So I’m waiting for the silver lining of this little water scenario.

Meanwhile it has me thinking about water, about how we take it for granted.  They say folks from around the Great Lakes are water hogs, cause we’re so used to having so much clean water at our disposal, we give no thought to it.

Not like a lot of First Nations communities, removed from the easy access to clean water, whose natural resources have often been polluted, of whom 113 were under long-standing water advisories as of this January.

And not like folks in China, for example (random factoid: over 300 million rural Chinese have no access to safe drinking water).

Not even like folks in Arizona or New Mexico (various super-scary factoids available here and here).

There’s a lot of talk out there about how water will be the next oil, the next big commodity, the next resource so essential, wars will be fought.

Funny though, cause you can’t drink oil.

Here’s a few factoids from the book, Blue Covenant, by the tireless Maude Barlow

The average human being needs 50 litres of water a day for drinking, cooking and sanitation. The average North American uses 600 litres a day. The average African uses 6 litres a day.

Seven hundred million people in China, out of a total of 1.3 billion, drink water that doesn’t meet the minimum health standards set by the World Health Organization.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, more than 130 million people don’t have safe drinking water.

18 thoughts on “Watery thoughts

    1. Yes, the watery thirst-quenching element of beer was my thinking last night, and in a way perhaps it worked, I did not die of dehydration.
      Tweet, when looked at this morning seemed sweet enough in a somewhat arbitrary way…the intention was clearly affectionate if muddled.
      Tricky part – I`m thirsty again now….

          1. I’m going to barge in here to say, I have never drank a beer or a coffee in my life (it’s a freak thing) and love everything about water, especially when I’m submerged in it. The clock is ticking… three hours away from the news: is it safe to drink?

          2. Being submerged in water is totally the best thing ever.
            Last I heard, the boil water advisory was on at least until 9:00 tonight…

  1. I tasted beer once, when I was in college. I spit it out. I thought, “Why would anybody ever drink that stuff?” I have a spring on my place that runs day and night, at least 30 gal/min, maybe as much as 60. It stays no more than 46F all year around, if I remember my measurements right. The guy who got it tested for me sells bottled water. He said, “If I had your water, I’d be rich! It doesn’t need anything!” That’s where the water for the house comes from. But it gets polluted with copper coming through the pipes. Every morning we have to run at least a couple gallons before we take any to drink. It’s better if you walk down to the spring and carry it up in buckets, like I used to do. I wish I still could.
    The girl you’re babysitting, and her mother. How are they doing now?

    1. Wow Terron, beautiful to hear about your spring – it sounds absolutely delicious (maybe especially cause my water intake is way below usual habits).
      Household here seems to be holding up well, though I do wonder if some of that is a delayed reaction, for the girl especially. While mom is actively grieving, girl is strangely fine, and she adored her dad.
      Maybe she’ll deal with it later. Maybe we all have different rhythms for grief…

      1. There are some children growing now who understand more than has been usual in the past. Maybe she naturally understands death better than grownups around her do.

    1. Oh my goodness! Of course! The solution to the global crisis is to drink less water and drink more beer, or vodka, or wine, or scotch, or…..
      So glad we got that cleared up.

      1. First world problems for sure… the issue of water around the world is horrifying. While in India (2x), we knew to only use bottled water, no matter what… no ice, no fresh veggies (washed in water), nothing that involved water. Each day, I thought about what that meant to the people who had to live like that.

        1. My sister was flying to Pakistan, (or Afghanistan- I forget which-she’s been to both) and she got so sick she had to stay in England for a couple weeks to recover before she went on. The cause seemed to be some ice she got in a Chicago airport.

  2. It has always bothered me to see people waste water. It could be THE commodity. I think in some places as you have duly noted that is already is. 🙂

  3. Living in Australia when I was young definitely made me aware of the preciousness of water. We would often have water shortages and limits on usage. We had our share of contaminations that required boiling as well. It’s pretty darn important stuff alright!

    Ireland takes it for granted like no other. The water pipes here are so old that around 30% of the countries drinking water is lost during transport through the pipes. The only times we have shortages here are due to human error or failing infrastructure.

    Thanks for sharing, it’s good to be aware of this stuff 🙂


    1. Having your awareness developed like that when you are young sounds like a bit of a gift in a way – I have to admit, I rarely think about how lucky we are to have easy access to such abundance…
      Seems like we’re likely to hear much more about the issue in the future.
      Meanwhile, Montreal is back to normal…
      Thanks for your thoughts, Rohan!

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