Contemporary Culture: Our Water Use

Most of us in the United States have ready access to clean water, and we don’t think much about our usage. I think back to the Peace Corps years, when Minga had to carry all the water her family used on a daily basis. That meant multiple trips to a well that was several hundred feet from her house, filling a 5 gallon can each time, and bringing the heavy, unsteady burden back balanced on her head. At the house she had a large oil drum, and that’s what she filled each time — many trips, 5 gallons at a time. She did it at least 3x a day: after washing the clothes in the morning, sometime mid-afternoon, and then the last thing at night before going to bed.

Amazon is moving new headquarters offices into Queens, which has an aging sewer system. Estimates are that the 25,000 anticipated workers will each use 100 gallons of water a day. The article below discusses how well equipped the city water system is to handle that usage — as in, 25,000 toilet flushes several times a day.

But what sticks in my mind is what it might have been like for Minga to have to carry 100 gallons of water a day for each of her then 7 family members. Seven hundred gallons every day? Would never have happened.

This is a pic from the Peace Corps era — not Minga, but two of her neighbors. You can just see the spout of the pump sticking out just above the yellow water can. And the woman in the checkered blouse has the pump handle in her hands. The people in Rio Hato were lucky — they had a well that delivered clean water. At least I assume we had clean water. Most of us got parasites, including me, but I assumed that was from muddy ground water, not what we drank.

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