By Greg Reyneke, CWS-VI
Living in America is wonderful. Our massive consumer-centric culture, access to cheap technology, copious quantities of cheap food and a seemingly unlimited supply of potable water are taken for granted here, as well as in many other first-world nations. As with the entire world though, there are haves and have-nots; when it comes to access to clean, delicious, life-sustaining water, there are many people who certainly have not.
When we talk about a lack of clean water, first-world arrogance casts its eyes to visions of starving, dehydrated people in exotic locales, but it is really much simpler than that. Our entire human race runs on water. Every function of our bodies and even our civilization relies on water of varying quality. Without potable water, humankind would certainly cease to exist!
Looking at 2011 so far, it has not been a very good year for water quality in the developed world; natural and man-made disasters have caused significant contamination to surface and groundwater supplies. Earthquakes and tsunami activity have wreaked havoc; northern Japan is still discovering how much damage has been done. Shale fracking procedures have possibly contaminated groundwater and even permanently changed the hydrodynamics of certain aquifers. Flooding in the American northeast has liquidized the last hundred years of ground-level soil toxicity, creating a groundwater contamination nightmare whose consequences will certainly haunt us for many years to come.
That usually clean glass of water that comes from your tap is a distinct luxury compared to many other parts of the world. Our municipalities and privately owned water utilities work extremely hard with the limited funds they have at their disposal to provide us with working, utility-grade water that meets minimum legislated safety standards. It is our responsibility to help our clients bring their water quality to a level that meets their own individual sense of quality, taste, feel and cleanliness. We have many tools at our disposal: sediment filters, iron filters, pH neutralizers, softeners, conditioners, ultrafilters, nanofilters, distillers, RO purifiers and a host of other technological wonders unheard of and even unobtainable in many parts of the world.
In some areas of this planet, the lady of the house will walk over a mile in oppressive heat with a 20-liter (5.28-gallon) container with her infant on her back, to the nearest pumped, safe water from a community supply. Once full, she will hoist that heavy burden onto her head and walk home with a smile on her face, grateful to have clean water for her family. It is humbling indeed to think of this scenario while sipping on a glass of iced, purified water that required no more effort on my part than simply raising my carcass from the couch and depressing the lever on a faucet. Oh, how much we do take for granted!
In many parts of the world, normal people are paying the price for our insatiable appetite for
cheap consumer goods. Villagers in China, India, Vietnam and the Philippines increasingly have to deal with PCBs, industrial solvents, heavy metals and other toxins in their water due to negligent environmental stewardship by local industry and governments that put profits ahead of people. Other areas face the ongoing threat of poor infrastructure, where drinking water supplies get contaminated with human and animal waste through ignorance and negligence.
Without clean water, life has very little value. Growing up in South Africa, I frequently passed the retaining wall at Hartebeespoort dam, where the Latin phrase Sine Aqua Agricola est Misera was chiseled into the granite for all to see. Loosely translated it means Without Water the Farmer is Sad. Without clean water all humankind is sad indeed. Our vocation and duty as water quality improvement professionals is to improve the comfort, health and safety of our clients by improving the quality and aesthetics of their water.
Many excellent NGOs, like Water for People (waterfor people.org) and Clean Water Fund (cleanwaterfund.org) exist to bring good clean water to those who need it in America and around the world. When deciding your personal and corporate philanthropy this year, please consider contributing to organizations like these to help others locally and globally come closer to the levels of clean water quality that we enjoy.
Keep helping your clients get the quality of water that they deserve. Never settle for minimum standards and remember to give to those who desperately need our help.
About the author
Greg Reyneke, CWS-VI, is currently General Manager at Intermountain Soft Water in Lindon, UT and serves on the WC&P Technical Review Committee. He also serves on the advisory board of the Smart Dealer Network, a trade association dedicated to helping independent water treatment dealers succeed in today’s changing world and reach their full potential.