July 27, 2012

Relationships of convenience

In Australia tap water is generally safe and seemingly abundant. This convenience comes with a small price: the impact on our attitudes to water. Although identifying our own biases is difficult, I've tried to expose a few of my underlying assumptions. To help, I looked at my reactions to different drinking water supplies. Welcome to my mini-diary of drinking water baggage!
- March. Stream in a forest reserve, Costa Rica: For me, streams are associated with swimming rather than with drinking water. Drinking directly from the mountain-fed streams felt odd, although getting water from the taps, fed with untreated water from the same stream, felt “normal” My disconnection between “tap-water” and its source surprised me.
-April. Tap water in Port Antonio, Jamaica. The water pressure was low or non-existent for part of the day. Containers are filled with water at night to cover the gap. Out of necessity, people in Port Antonio were very water conscious, far more than the average Australian. To my embarrassment, it took me days to realise this basic fact because most tourist facilities have massive private water storage tanks.
- May. City supply and no supply, Guatemala: In spite of avoiding the Quetzaltenango's notorious tap water, I got sick. It made me wary to the point of paranoia. Later, on a visit to a rural Mayan community (San Francisco), I was struck by the local guide's comments about the role of water. He said it brought people together, giving them an opportunity to share news which would be missed if the houses had piped water. Is facebook my equivalent to hauling water?
My tourist's impressions of life, and relationship to water, in the countries above will never match the opinion of a local.  As limited as my impressions were, they shed some light onto my own assumptions. Water in Australia seems so convenient, safe and abundant. It's a black box with an aquifer or dam at one end and clean tap water at the other. There is a cost: water from the tap seems separate to the environment, external costs are hidden, consumption is difficult for the consumer to judge, there is no social aspect. There is nothing new here, yet its easy to ignore the impact of ingrained thought habits. The structure of our municipal water supplies effects our underlying assumptions. Let's remember to take that into account; our daily interactions with water shape our ethic as much as our ethic dictates our actions.

Kat Taylor.
Jamaica: Tourist 'paradise', water pressure problems for locals.

1 comment:

  1. Tap water is good that what I believe it's just people who have the concept that they don't have good or pure water. Great article