Water: You don’t realise how good you have it… until you don’t have it

One of the biggest challenges here in Peru is it’s water source.  The lack of hot, clean water on demand.  We all take our water for granted.  At our home in Cornucopia, we turn on our tap and we get clean water straight from our well. Our water comes from 300 feet  underground.  In the city, your water is treated, it is clean, and ready to drink. (That is if you don’t live in Flint or 32 more cities in America with contaminated water.)

Looks can be deceiving.  Water can look clean, but take caution in Peru.  I have been told that none of the water in Peru is safe for drinking. Take a look at this beautiful scene.  A lake atop a plateau surrounded by mountains.  Beautiful, right?  Wrong.  Farm animals are used down to the very edge of the lake for plowing fields, thus contaminating the water.

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In the first city we lived in, Urubamba, there was no water treatment facility.  The water comes directly from the mountains, flows down into the valley and is shared by everyone.

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If you live downstream, you are guaranteed to be drinking contaminated water, as everyone drains their waste water straight back into the water source, including the farm animals of the Sacred Valley.  As a result, water must be boiled to rinse our dishes as well as for cooking.  You want a clean cup of coffee?  You must first boil the water before you put it into your coffee maker. (I learned this the hard way.  I ordered a cappuccino once and got sick from it, probably because they didn’t boil the water first.) Are you brushing your teeth?  Make sure the water is bottled.  The water also affects the vegetables and fruits grown in Peru.  Everything must be peeled or boiled.  This can be problematic if you like to eat salads.  Eat leafy greens only if you trust the restaurant or person cooking for you.

We all have two knobs in our bathrooms and kitchens back home.  One for hot and one for cold.  In Peru,  your only option is cold.  We all enjoy a hot shower, right? For a hot water shower, you must have an electric heating source or a solar panel.  Do you want hot water for cleaning your dishes?  You must boil it first.  I have been using boiled water as my final rinse so we don’t risk getting a stomach bug from the rinse water.

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When we lived in Urabamba, every Wednesday we visited a rural Elementary School to do art projects with the children.  On the last day, we did a painting project where we painted polka dots on the exterior walls of the school.  I thought beforehand, how are we going to clean the paint brushes?  We had no choice but to use the outdoor sink, the school’s only water source for cleaning and drinking.

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I felt horrible about this.  The water drained out through the bottom of the sink, through an underground pipe which emptied into a concrete ditch and out under the school yard wall.  The best we could do was to catch the paint water from the pipe before it went into the ditch.  We captured one pail at a time and poured it in the grass.  I figured the ground would at least filter it before it entered back into the shared water stream.

The unclean water affects us every day here.  It is something we have gotten used to, but it is a serious pain in the butt.  However, we do what we have to do because we don’t want to get sick.  We have been pretty lucky so far.

As we go through the motions of daily life in Peru, I am watching our Native brothers and sisters of Standing Rock fight for their right to clean water and it hits close to home. Knowing what it is like to live daily without clean, safe water, I am totally standing behind the fight for clean water rights.  Clearly, the greed of a few is overriding the importance of keeping citizens of the United States safe and healthy.

The Dakota Access Pipe Line is planned to cross the  Missouri River and Lake Oahe.  Not if, but when there is a break in this proposed pipeline, it would affect 17 million people that depend on the Missouri River for clean water. The city of Bismarck, North Dakota saw the writing on the wall.  Who wants a pipeline running through their backyard?  They surely didn’t. I don’t.  I’m sure you don’t either.  Well, neither do the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe clearly has the moral high ground. An earlier proposal for the pipeline to cross the Missouri River north of Bismarck, North Dakota, was scrapped because it threatened the capital’s water supply. So the very decision to move the route south was to sacrifice Native communities. A decade ago, even a couple of years ago, that might have worked. But not in the era of social media. People of goodwill easily recognise this injustice.

These people are not protestors, they are “Water Protectors.”  They are standing up for clean water, not just for themselves, but for the 17 million people down stream from them. They are setting an example for us all to stand up for our right as human beings to have access to clean water.

Water is life.

We cannot live without clean water.

We stand with Standing Rock.

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