In early August, Thomas Fuller's words, "We never know the worth of water till the well is dry," became abundantly clear for 500,000 greater Toledoans. Last week, USEPA Administrator Gina McCarthy referenced the Toledo incident in a speech in front of 18,000 water professionals saying, "It's 2014, folks, 2014, in the most prosperous nation on Earth. Yet for two full days, thousands of families couldn't access life's most basic necessity. Now this is what one would call a wake-up call."
Water: Essential to life and economic prosperity. Don't think so? Try living without it. Think about industry. What industry would exist without water? Almost every major city was founded where it was due to access to water. Not only did ancient Rome have a god of fresh water and the sea—Neptune—but they also had a goddess of the sewers—Cloacina. (An aside: Cloacina was also the protector of sexual intercourse in marriage. Perhaps Romans recognized both reproduction and proper disposal of wastewater were equally vital for the human race?)
Yet, despite water’s undeniable value, the average U.S. citizen only pays about $2.75 a day for water and wastewater service for his/her family. (Reference: http://alwtr.us/10lAZE2, http://alwtr.us/1pGfXVs) That is probably about the same as what that person pays for cell phone service.
That said, this blog is not about wanting you to feel good about the price you pay for water service. This is written to encourage you to do your part to protect what is essential to life—your water. Here in Northeast Ohio, that means protecting Lake Erie and all its tributaries, but our actions combined can make a big impact beyond our region, too. Your part goes beyond proper fertilizer application and making sure your mower blade is not set too low. It goes past buying water- and energy-efficient fixtures and appliances, irrigating only when necessary, and using sound watering principles. Your part really starts with using the power of the purse—buying products that protect or improve the environment, as well as supporting companies who do the same. Your part means asking yourself if you really need to buy bottled water, which consumes a lot more water to produce than each bottle actually contains. Add to that the unrecoverable fossil fuels consumed and pollution emitted by the trucks that bring that water to market, the plastic bottles that will end up in landfills (still around 70% of those sold), and the energy consumed to store and sell that water… then ask if that bottled water is really worth it. Your part also includes a more active role in the political process—voting for politicians that support clean water and making sure those politicians make and pass laws that do just that.