Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Yesterday afternoon a man from the Water Bureau came by with bright orange door tags informing everyone that our water would be turned off for eight hours today for necessary repairs to the water mains. For most folks having the water turned off between 8:00 AM and 4:00 PM on a weekday would have no impact as they are at work during those hours. But without a workplace to go to, aside from my desk, this immediately led to a change in my plans for both yesterday and today.

First of all, today’s laundry had to be moved to yesterday. Easily done. Then a bottle of water had to be filtered for drinking. No problem. I considered baking and deferred it to Wednesday. I debated rising early for a shower or taking one at night. Then the recognition came that flushing would require water and thus I could not plan on staying at home all day. In short, my generally unnoticed dependence on clean, easily accessible water came directly to the front of my awareness for the first time in quite awhile.

The longer I considered it I became a bit stunned that I hadn’t considered it before. My usual routine relies on the instant availability of water. I have a preference for washing dishes as I use them, it being so easy to turn on the tap. I shower, clean up and flush at my own convenience, never giving a thought that I might need to plan these activities or do without. And with this complacency, I believe there is an element of lack of gratitude.

Perhaps it is just the realities of modern life, but we have separated ourselves from an awareness of the very necessities of life. We turn on a tap. We don’t pump our water, draw it from a well or haul it from a stream. And this makes us unaware and wasteful. We use the water to cook our food, to clean ourselves and our belongings, hydrate our bodies and grow our crops. And yet, we seemingly give it no thought.

As I sat through the evening, listening to the rain pelt the windows, I noticed how ubiquitous water is and yet more difficult to access than one might think. The local river cannot be a source of drinking water due to the various noxious things we have dumped in it. There are no streams or ponds nearby. I don’t know a single person who would know how to dig a well if their life depended on it. And don’t get me started on the issue of outhouses. If the water were to be turned off one day for real, we would all be in a very fine mess very quickly.

So, as I move through my waterless day, I notice my needs more closely than I might otherwise have done. And, rather than allowing myself to be annoyed at the inconvenience, I’m grateful for the awareness it has brought me. Hopefully, this will stay with me beyond the remainder of today and influence my actions and sensibilities in the future.


Carmen said...

No water for 8 hours would definitely give me some time for reflection

Marlana said...

I know what you mean about the water. It would be very hard to go 8 hours without. My dad was born in 1952 and grew up here in SW Missouri, he didn't have running water or indoor plumbing in his house until the late 1960's. They didn't have electricity until he was about five or six. This wasn't even in a rural area! I don't know how my grandma did it with six kids.

Anonymous said...

Kinda late to chime in one this, but whenever I get notice that the water will be off for a certain period of time, I fill the bathtub with as much as I think I'll need, plus a little extra. That way, I can still do dishes (boiling water on the stove isn't quick or easy for washing dishes in, but it works), flushing the toilet can be done since the tank can be refilled by hand, and we can still wash up if need be. It's not as convenient, but it beats not being able to do any of those things at all, and it's fine if you're only going to be putting up with it for a short time.