Water Envy


Today, JParadisi RN joins thousands of other bloggers around the world in support of Blog Action Day 2010 with a post about water.


photo by jparadisi 2010

Some readers know I was born on Catalina Island, and grew up surrounded by the waters of the Pacific Ocean. When I lived there, Islanders relied on rainwater collected at several sites for our drinking water. A lack of a dependable drinking water supply for the island prevented the Union Army from establishing a permanent army base for the U.S. government during the Civil War. Over a century later, a reliable supply of drinking water for the inhabitants and the tourism industry that supports the local economy is a source of concern. I remember one year, when it was a serious problem.

Late in the 1970’s, after several years of drought, the Catalina’s reservoirs were well below the needs of our community. That summer strict water rationing was put into effect for every household. Bottled water flew off the shelves of our two, tiny grocery stores, which were supplied twice weekly by barge shipments from overtown (the mainland). For an early adolescent girl, the idea of showering every other day for no more than 5 minutes was alarming. “Day after” hair was not cool in the 1970’s, where the shampoo ads encouraged us to have “squeaky clean hair.” Water meters were scrupulously monitored, and households using more than their ration had the water supply to their house turned off until the following month. I knew a woman who had an undetected water pipe leak under her house. She went over her ration the first month, and there was no mercy. She bought soap that foamed in salt water, and went to the shoreline each morning in her bathing suit to wash, until her water was turned back on.

There was no water rationing for the tourists in the hotels, however. Because the Island’s economy depends on tourism, civic leaders did not restrict tourists from taking showers. They were encouraged to be considerate, and asked to reuse their hotel towels. They were asked not to request glasses of water from the restaurants that served them unless they intended to actually drink the water. I remember feeling envious of the tourist girls my own age that had clean, shiny hair, smelled fresh and clean every day, and returned to homes where long, hot showers were not a crime against a community.

We were saved from further rationing by a winter of strong, steady rain. I have not forgotten what it is like to be afraid that there might not be enough water.

Today one out of every six people lives in a world where there is not enough water. 1.1 billion people in the world do not have access to safe drinking water. Another 2.6 billion people lack adequate sanitation.

A physician I knew volunteered his time and skills in a clinic in a third-world village, dispensing immunizations and antibiotics to children. He said that by the end of the week, he realized that without safe drinking water and sanitation, the medications were practically useless. He spent the remainder of his time in the village digging ditches for water pipe.

You can help. Go to change.org. Learn more. Sign the petition. Fund raise, or donate. It’s a human right to have access to safe drinking water and sanitation.


  1. I love this story. The detail of it is so much more effective than just stating some facts. We also contributed to the Blog Action Day. Check us out if you’re interested .Thanks for the story.


  2. Great blog entry…and I loved the way you made it so personal. I visited Catalina briefly – one day – from a cruiseship in 1990 and absolutely loved it.

    Thanks for your insight…


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