October 12, 2021
I took the opportunity last weekend to go to Kansas to see my sister who has been helping mom downsize as mom prepares for a move. I was just about to leave my house when I received a call from asking me to bring water. It seems a water main broke in Wichita and they were under a boil order as a precaution against contamination. As with most “crises”, it also meant the quick had immediately gone to the local markets and cleared the shelves of any bottled water that was in stock. I had to buy water in Arkansas and transport it the 325 miles to Wichita to make sure my family had water. While I did buy water, I also have a 5-gallon jug that I used when I went dry camping (no potable water on site) in the deserts of Utah. I filled the water jug and brought it along as well.
One of the stops I intended to make along the trip home was to revisit the Sequoia National Wildlife Refuge outside of Vian, Oklahoma. Melissa and I had marveled at the thousands of birds we had seen there this spring. As I pulled in, I noticed how dry the area was. The drying fields that had supplied grain in the spring were now just shells. As I drove through the refuge the marsh areas that had been a boon to the waterfowl were dry. The hundreds of small birds which had darted from tree to tree were either hiding or absent. I drove the four miles back to Sally Jones Lake without seeing a single bird. At the lake I did find four pelicans. As I watched I also saw a bald eagle soar into view. I had seen aeries on the previous visit, but no birds. It was nice to see an adult and juvenile hunting the skies together. The water main at the refuge was not broke, but neither had any rain fallen. Water makes a difference.
When I pulled into Wichita, I figured I could eat at one of my favorite local restaurants. Since the main broke, they were all closed. There were several fast-food spots that were open (they do not use water?). When I arrived at the house, I found my sister had been boiling water for the last several days to have ice and incidentals. My family was happy to see the water that I had brought from Arkansas. Marcia had placed the boiled water in every container she could find. One of them was a gallon jar, but it had a rusty lid. She had placed a plastic hairnet over the jar to keep the impurities out. While I know they require workers to wear hairnets in restaurants, this is the first time I had ever seen one on a jar.
Thoughts: Several years ago, my work received a water bill of almost $900. When we questioned the bill, we were told the water had passed through our meter, so we were liable. We were assured the pipe was not broke. We disputed the bill for several months before having to pay to keep our water on. The following year city crews came and dug up the street beside the business. There had been a leak which had undermined the street and it had to be replaced. Somehow, the city could not understand the broke pipe that released the water was associated with our bill. When the pipe broke in Wichita it sent the entire city on shutdown. UNICEF and the World Health Organization report billions of people in the world suffer from poor access to water, sanitation, and hygiene. Some 2.2 billion people do not have safely managed drinking water, 4.2 billion do not have safely managed sanitation services, and 3 billion lack basic handwashing facilities. They were not helped when Wichita fixed the broke water main. We have the capability to provide safe drinking water for the world. Safe water should be a right, not a privilege. Do the work. Follow the science. Change is coming and it starts with you.