Water, water everywhere; not a drop to drink or use…

Not long ago, I was musing about how fortunate and privileged we are in our comfortable life here in the uber-developed North. Today, I’m realising just how incredibly privileged we are and how a mere 8-hour disruption is, well, disruptive to our normal routine and cushioned life.

First-world fortunate, indeed.

The story:

A few months ago, some maintenance men with clipboards and tape measures traipsed through our flat looking at the pipes in our kitchen and bathroom to determine how sound they were. They went to each and every flat in the building and we knew they would be carrying out this inspection well in advance. After the inspection, the decision was taken to replace the building’s entire plumbing and drainage system. Thus, the next few months will see loads of renovations taking place throughout our normally quiet and convenient life. All of the pipes and plumbing fixtures in our four-story, four-entrance apartment block will be replaced with shiny new pipes and fixtures. It all appears to be very well organised and orchestrated. And, we are given updates through our mail slots of impending disruptions and what to expect with plenty of notice.

Rather impressive, really.

The problem is that occasionally over the next several months, we will have no water nor drainage in our flat. Given that both my husband and I work from home, logistically, this is not quite ideal. A bloody nuisance when you think about all the various ‘functions’ which require drainage or running water.

Today — the first of those several days  — I’m truly astounded by how many tasks and ‘things’ require water and/or drains. And, I am so, so, so happy that it is for only 8 hours.

This also has me thinking about those who have no running water. And, those who have no drainage systems or modern plumbing.

UNICEF’s US-based website lists the following in relation to world wide stats on safe water and sanitation:

Water is life. Yet 768 million people do not have access to safe, clean drinking water, and 2.5 billion people live without proper sanitation. When water is unsafe and sanitation non-existent, water can kill.

Across the globe, nearly 4,000 children die each day from unsafe water and lack of basic sanitation facilities.

That’s quite staggering to me. The WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation (JMP) lists diarrhoea as the leading cause of illness and death. Furthermore, 88% of diarrhoeal deaths are due to inadequate access to sanitation facilities, together with the inadequate availability of water for hygiene and unsafe drinking water.

Water is life, indeed.

To understand the importance of having clean and safe drinking water and adequate sanitation and just how much water we use along with how easily available it is to us in the developed North, take a day to make note of your daily water use. It’s eye-opening to say the least.

All the various, seemingly meaningless tasks which at some point require running (or at least clean) water and functioning drains add up and add up quickly.

We stocked up on bottles and buckets of water yesterday evening and also put out a few refuse buckets for the kitchen and bathroom sinks, mostly to remind us not to use the drains. Despite having spent a fair amount of time either traveling in places where water was a luxury or inconsistently available, numerous camping expeditions when it was all about humping water in and out in my backpack, and the completely unpredictable water cut-offs in Moscow and on holiday in Cuba, I’m still struggling with this inconvenience. Because, honestly, for us in our relatively posh life in Finland, this 8-hour disruption is a mere inconvenience rather than a daily fact of life.

And, I am extremely grateful!

UN Water estimates that each person—each individual human living on this giant rock racing through the universe—needs 20-50 litres of water each day to meet their basic needs for drinking cooking, and cleaning. Here in Finland, particularly in Helsinki, those 20-50 litres can be accessed quite easily by opening up any number of water taps in our flat.

From brushing our teeth, to using the toilet, washing our hands, making coffee, rinsing our coffee cups or spoons to get the bits of grounds off of them, drinking water because we’re simply thirsty, to showering, and all of the various things we do throughout the day which mean opening up the water tap, water most definitely is life.

And, I’m looking forward to opening up those lovely, luscious water taps at 16.00 (or in an hour and 40 minutes).

Image from Save the Children Australia

Image from Save the Children Australia

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