Go get a drink of water. How far did you have to go? Probably not far enough to think twice. But when Denise Hart, speaker at the Metropolitan Waterworks Museum, mentioned that the average walking distance to get to a water source in Kenya is two kilometers, I began to think about my water use. Hart also mentioned that in her rural community in New Hampshire, water is a responsibility left up to individuals. Homes, businesses, and schools each have a well that they have to maintain in order to get safe water. I soon realized there is a major problem with water usage – we have become so distanced from public water sources that some of us don’t realize water is a limited resource.
Most of us can really only give a ballpark estimate of how much water we need to sustain ourselves. After receiving notice of my town’s water ban, I was surprised to hear that each person’s average water use is around 67-68 gallons per day. Is that really possible?
Sure, with running water and no means to measure it, I suppose I could be using that much water. Come to think of it, between drinking water, showering, washing dishes, and watering the lawn, it definitely adds up. The trouble is, tap water is so good around me that it seems like people forget about it — and buy bottled water for convenience. One town in the area, Concord, Massachusetts, has increased awareness of their high-quality tap water by banning single-use PET (polyethylene terephthalate, a type of plastic) water bottles. Concord became the first town to do this in the U.S., and the second in the world (the first being Bandanoon, Australia if you’re wondering).
Jill Appel, another speaker at the bottled water event, helped pass this law, and spoke about the many reasons drinking tap water is better than bottled. Besides the fact that PET has been declared unsafe due to its effect on the endocrine system, Appel recognized the many disparities between bottled water and tap water that make tap water an obvious choice. The fact that there is so much effort to ensure that we have enough clean tap water makes purchasing single-use PET bottles ridiculous. There are already signs that the bylaw is working to encouraging tap water use through local business participation and hydration stations at schools.
It’s extremely important to create awareness of our water use and where it comes from. Since it’s so easy to just turn on the faucet and get as much water as you want, many of us forget that water is not a never-ending resource. Putting the focus on tap water, like Concord did, is definitely a step in the right direction to help us appreciate our access to clean water.
Photo sources: temp13rec and OHHH SNAP!!! via Flickr