I'm boiling water to make coffee this morning, and I'll be boiling much more throughout the day as I prepare to host a potluck for a number of friends tonight. Why would I be boiling all this water? We're on our third day of a city-wide "precautionary boil water advisory". This means we're to boil all water to be used to prepare food and beverages (hot or cold), brush our teeth, and care for our pets.
I can't remember the last time this type of advisory has been declared, let alone for the entire city and its 785,000 residents.* It's not a big deal for me, but I started thinking of how it would affect others:
- Parents with young children or children taking care of parents
- Schools & daycares
- Hospitals and long-term care residences
- Restaurants & hotels
- Office & factory managers
- Fitness & recreational facilities
I'm sure I'm missing many categories of caregivers or overseers worthy of mention but each of one named above would be facing a number of special considerations because they're expected to create a safe environment for others, and that only raises the stakes in a situation like this. If we make a mistake taking care of ourselves, that's one thing but putting others in danger, that's a different story. I mention these folks to make it clear that I understand that such a water advisory is a serious matter for many. It also serves to show how dependent many of our social systems and services are on the expectation of uninterrupted access to this important resource.
Luckily, as much as I realize this advisory is causing difficulties for countless people, as of this writing, I have yet to hear of any, let alone significant, health repercussions from the potential exposure to E. Coli and other bacteria the water testing revealed.
The Bigger Picture
Water is such a basic need that having access to safe drinking water is just, well, expected. We use it so often that we don't even think about what a precious resource it is and on how dependent we are on it in our everyday lives. This advisory is serving as a good reminder of this fact, and of how lucky we are to live with the types of services a modern Canadian city offers its residents. Imagine living life worrying about where your next drink of safe water will come from or when the next opportunity to bathe will come around. What a tremendous shock that would be for most of us. We would be lost in a hurry.
For most of us, this situation is a mere annoyance. I'm not "outraged" by the situation like some people say they are. In fact, I feel no resentment whatsoever over this temporary issue. Instead, I feel fortunate to have what should be a short-lived complication, a reminder of how lucky we are to live the way we live.
I would even go as far as to say that convenient access to safe drinking water is only a drop in the bucket of what we should all be grateful for. We are so lucky to live the way we live. Just pinch me!
What are you grateful for?
UPDATE: The boil water advisory only lasted until that afternoon--less than 3 days all told. It was a false alarm and everything is back to normal. My appreciation for the reminder of how lucky we are will have a far more lasting effect than the short-lived inconveniences the situation caused our household.
BTW: If you want to increase your awareness of all the things to be grateful for in everyday life, you might enjoy this TED Talk.
*Apparently, it's been over 100 years since the last city-wide water safety advisory. I'm feeling even more grateful.