Clean drinking water for all people is of crucial importance. Anyone who cares about world health issues and human rights has undoubtedly spent time thinking about the issue of people having access to clean water in the third world. But is anyone paying attention to whether American citizens have access to clean drinking water?
Yes, I said American citizens...because there is a very serious clean water problem, one which is becoming increasingly worse, in many areas of our country. In a recent article published in The Atlantic, a frightening fact has been illuminated: the infrastructure of water pipes in the United States is seriously flawed.
The system of underground pipes through which our drinking water travels is well over 100 years old in many regions of the US. These weathered and beaten pipes are often corroded with lead and breaking down. Necessary funds simply aren't being allocated to fix this problem. Cities, counties, and states are resorting to piecemeal "bandaids" in order to address deteriorating pipes, leaving US citizens in many areas with piping systems that are literally poisoning the tap water that flows into homes, schools, and businesses.
Although it's certainly not the only place in America where this is occurring, Flint, Michigan is going through a drinking water crisis that rivals that of a developing country. Long-suffering Flint, the birthplace of General Motors, went through a devastating economic crisis decades ago with the closing of the of the GM plants.
Like nearby Detroit, people left the city in droves to seek employment elsewhere and those who stayed faced unemployment rates that have been consistently soaring since the 80s and 90s. As the population has continued to dwindle, the city has had to face the fact that there just simply aren't enough tax dollars coming in to support standard yet essential services, such as fire and police coverage. Water has been another story.
Up until recently, Flint had been buying its water from Detroit, but as the Flint economic crisis has gotten worse and worse and Detroit water has gotten more expensive, Flint has been forced to pump its own water from the Flint River, treat it, and sell it to residents. Rivers are notoriously polluted and this "new" water coming into residents' homes immediately started to smell, taste, and look different.
Some residents claim they noticed an unusual blueish or yellowish tint to the water; many claimed that their water came out smelling like rotten eggs, or even like garbage. Kids started coming down with inexplicable rashes and strange illnesses. Testing revealed not only that Flint's "new" water had river pollutants in it, but also extreme amounts of lead-- 13,000 parts per billion, where the FDA recommends that lead content not exceed 15 parts per billion.
Pumping bad water through the pipes is one piece of the problem; old, lead-corroded pipes where the water sits while waiting to be pumped through is another. Lead-corroded pipes lead to lead poisoning, the consequences of which can be dire. If the pipes are no good, it doesn't even matter if the water itself is clean or not. The residents don't even have a chance.
This startling and devastating article points out that there isn't one specific problem to pinpoint here, sadly. It began with the downfall of the auto industry, which lead to the people of Flint losing their jobs and subsequently their sources of income, which lead to many fleeing the city (and the ones who stayed were in financial straits), which lead to absence of tax revenue for city-funded programs and services, which lead to the city not being able to afford Detroit's water, which lead to Flint being forced to take water from a contaminated source in a rushed fashion before checking and repairing or replacing the pipes through which the water was to flow to residents' homes...and on the cycle goes.
Neglected infrastructure (corroded, ill-repaired pipes) is ultimately to blame, but with structural projects that cost billions of dollars to address and political red tape to wade through, where do we begin?
At Water Gallery, these issues worry us on multiple levels. Clean drinking water is the life blood of humanity. As Californians, the West Coast drought is at the forefront of our minds. But drought or no drought, access to clean water is a concern that affects every single human being, no matter where he or she resides.
Since one of the primary cornerstones of our business model is to give back, finding causes that are near and dear to our hearts is of great importance to us. We have been quite vocal about our love for the ocean and our world's waterways, our desire to support wildlife conservation, and the need to address climate change and pollution issues.
But we are just starting to learn about the issue of the aging pipes and we are deeply troubled. We want to call attention to this problem in any way we can. Over the coming months, we are going to work hard to research ways in which we can help contribute to the repairing of the aging water pipes that are plaguing many areas of our country.
Whether it's simply by calling attention to this serious issue through writing about it on our blog or as involved as finding charities or lobby groups who are working towards the goal of correcting these issues, we will do it. Sometimes when we look at worldwide problems, we forget the struggles that are right at our doorstep. Supporting American jobs and buying American products is a start, so that our American cities can thrive and our US infrastructures can get the attention they need. Our journey in this area has just begun and we intend to be part of the change we want to see.