When I was a teenager, my family spent a couple of years living ‘off-grid’. It was called ‘getting back to the land’. To me it looked a lot like an extended camping trip, but with small houses instead of tents. My main chore was to get water. There was a well on a neighbor’s property, and we’d been given permission to draw from it. So every day, at least twice, I would carry large jugs from our house in the woods, across the small road that divided our land from our neighbor’s, and fill the jugs at the well. I’d bring them back, then filter and boil the water for drinking, for washing, for dishes. I could carry around 3 gallons (11 l) per well trip, and each trip took me 10-15 minutes. Add to this the filtering and boiling, and it was a substantial daily task to get the same amount of water that most people use brushing their teeth with the water running, or two flushes of a low-volume toilet (we had a compost-outhouse, no flush toilets). Every water-related activity – from drinking a glass of water to cooking dinner to washing my hands or brushing my teeth – was directly associated with another trip to the well. I could easily quantify an activity in water-work time.
Then, after we moved into a more traditional house, there was an impressive but blessedly short-lived drought that lasted for a little under two years. We rationed water almost as much as we had when I was still hauling it by hand.
Thus purely by chance, I developed a deep appreciation for ready access to fresh water, and also, a sense that it was scarce.
I was lucky that its scarcity at that time was, for us, a matter of choice.
World Water Day – website
UN WWD – International Year of Water Cooperation
Global Water Volume – United States Geological Survey illustration