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When I was a teenager, we lived in an old house. It was one-and-a-half stories, with a huge attic and a damp basement, several bedrooms, two porches, a side yard and a white picket fence.
And one bathroom.
It had been built at the turn-of-the-century and had lived many different lives by the time my family decided to convert it into a bed and breakfast that would cater to itinerant duck hunters traveling through the Mississippi Delta.
To alleviate the stress of morning traffic in the house, we eventually added on another bathroom. But before that happened, we would make appointments to ensure that we all had ample time and space to get ready in the mornings for school. This was when I realized the value of water.
Because I had to queue up for it.
One particularly cold morning, I stumbled into the bathroom, made more alert by stepping across the frigid floor tiles, and reached to turn on the shower. Nothing. No water. I hesitated before moving over to the sink. I turned the faucet. Again, no water.
The pipes had frozen. There was no time to do anything, so my brother and I overdosed on breath mints and pocketed our toothbrushes so that we could brush our teeth when we got to school. No shower. As I made my way through the kitchen—without thinking—I grabbed the coffee pot and poured myself a strong cup of air.
It was going to be a long day but the next day would be better. Not having access to water at home was an inconvenience, but not a lifestyle. Only a single day.
Today, around the globe, people are trying to “Imagine a Day Without Water.” To get in the spirit, as the communications manager for Spartanburg Water, I planned to try and relive that day 20 years ago when I went without brushing my teeth, or having a shower, or having coffee, or, basically, living a normal life.
I didn’t last very long.
You miss the obvious things: the rhythm of water running freely from your tap is the sound of comfort. To be honest, most of us don’t really hear it. We don’t need to. But what happens when the tap runs dry? No more showers, obviously. Clean teeth. Coffee.
But what about the less obvious?
This morning, I thought about having toast for breakfast. Nope. The water footprint of a single slice of bread is 650 liters of water. How about a glass of milk instead of filling my water bottle? It takes 1,000 liters of water to produce a single liter of dairy.
Surely getting dressed can be water free. That cotton undershirt I planned to wear? It took 4,100 liters of water to make. And even if you make it out of the house without water, you can’t drive to work without it. Your car’s water pump needs its fuel.
You get the idea.
So, I tried to live a day without water and I failed. It’s easy to imagine, but hard to experience. However, many people around the world wish they could only imagine. Their daily lives are absent the soundtrack of the rhythm of the taps; we don't hear it. But they can't hear it. They queue for water without the promise of anything at the end of the line.
If you haven’t, just try to imagine a day without water. It won’t take you long to embrace the beautiful reality that you live in a place where that’s all you have to do.