Gongol.com Archives: May 2024

Brian Gongol

May 8, 2024

News Have a drink

A variety of organizations, most of which have enormous reach but very little share of the public mind, celebrate Drinking Water Week each year. Public proclamations from governors and mayors are often issued, and the broad-based value of public drinking water is cited in approving terms. ■ Lest the acknowledgment become too squishy and sanguine, we should do more to note that 90% of Americans are served by public drinking water systems regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act, which turns 50 this year. That's roughly 300 million people out of a population of some 335 million, all of whom can be satisfied with high confidence that whatever comes out of the tap is safe -- and that the people providing it are required to keep it safe under penalty of law. ■ You might quibble about differences in taste. You might find bottled water more convenient than tap water when you're on the road. You might even make the reasonable case that there's even more we as a society could do to continue advancing drinking water safety and quality (and of course there is -- just like there's more that medical science can do to keep us healthy, or that computer science can do to prevent malicious hacking). ■ But the fact is that a person can go literally almost anywhere in this gigantic country (third-largest in the world by land area) and know that what comes out of the tap won't make them sick. It's been tested and monitored, and someone is accountable for keeping it safe without you, the ordinary person, having to give it a second thought. ■ And it's not just what you drink -- it's the water washing the dishes where you go out to eat, what your surgeon uses to wash his or her hands, and what's ready to pour out of the sprinkler system over your head in a high-rise building. Almost everywhere you go, it's been tested, treated (where necessary), and delivered to a very high level of quality, typically at a cost so negligible that customers are billed in increments of hundreds or thousands of gallons per month. ■ If you've ever traveled to a country -- or even a campsite -- where the purity of your drinking water wasn't quite so assured, pause for a moment and consider just how much time you save simply by knowing that tap water is safe. Consider how much water reliability undergirds everything that happens in the economy. Consider how much better is your quality of life because you never give a second thought to waterborne diseases like cholera or typhoid fever. ■ Living without reliable sources of safe drinking water literally leaves people sick and tired. Drinking Water Week, as mundane as it may seem, celebrates the one thing that certifiably holds all the rest of civilization upright.

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