Water As Privilege

Some days I log onto The Billfold and crack jokes about my shoes or my hair or Pizza Hut just giving away pizzas to anyone willing to fill out a form, and other days I visit the NYT and read a story about families in California who haven’t had any running water for five months.

“We don’t have the money to move, and who would buy this house without water?” said Ms. Gallegos, who grew up in the area and shares a tidy mobile home with her husband and two daughters. “When you wake up in the middle of the night sick to your stomach, you have to think about where the water bottle is before you can use the toilet.”

It’s so easy to forget, even when you try every day to remember, that America is simultaneously rich/poor. It’s not just California, either. People in Detroit are getting their water through jury-rigged systems of hoses and duct tape, since, to quote ABC News, “city repairs to the water system are on hold.”

That link, by the way, tells the story not only of hoses held on with duct tape but also other workarounds built out of necessity in a bankrupt city, such as Detroit firefighters who use “a can filled with screws that’s knocked over by paper from a fax machine to alert themselves to emergencies.”

I feel so privileged — and, simultaneously, ashamed — that my biggest concern is whether I get a Pizza Hut coupon or whether I overspent by $36 on my “fall haul.”

And in Tulare County, California:

“You don’t think of water as privilege until you don’t have it anymore,” said Ms. Serrato, whose husband works in the nearby fields. “We were very proud of making a life here for ourselves, for raising children here. We never ever expected to live this way.”

Photo: Alex

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