Inter-Faith Council for Social Service

"Water is Life" by CROP Walk Coordinator

In early February, there was a water main break in Chapel Hill / Carrboro, North Carolina, that created an emergency water shortage. For 24 hours, families couldn’t use clean water. This is a reflection from Jo Wyrick, the coordinator of the Chapel Hill / Carrboro CROP Hunger Walk, from that day.

This morning I made my older daughter pancakes in a pan that had been wiped out with a paper towel, rinsed with a little bottled water, and then wiped out again.  “Is that safe?” she asked me.  “It’s fine,” I said.  “This pan hasn’t been used for anything except making your sister scrambled eggs half an hour ago.”  She looked at me dubiously.  “No dishwasher?”  “No dishwasher,” I said.  “Remember?  We can’t use water.”

We live in Chapel Hill, and for a little more than 24 hours could only use bottled water because of possible contamination from a broken water main.  No showers, no laundry. No dishwasher. Cooking with bottled water wasn’t so bad — we had a case on hand — but the other things we use water for were bigger problems. No flushing? Ok, no flushing every time.

“What if the water’s not back today?” My older daughter was worried. “What if I can’t take a shower tomorrow morning?” She has her first job interview tomorrow and wants to make a perfect first impression, not the impression of a girl with greasy hair who can’t be bothered to wash. “If the water’s not back tomorrow the restaurant won’t be open, so you won’t have an interview,” I said.  “They’ll reschedule.”

Meanwhile the little one wants a bubble bath. “No bubbles,” I say.  “Remember? We’re not using water.” What about laundry? “I’ll do the laundry when we get the water back.”  By noon I’ve given in and driven to Durham for fast food — if the little one has her chicken nuggets it almost makes up for not being able to take a bath, something that offends her sense of how the world should be.

Mid afternoon the water is restored, and all is right in our world again.  For my family, 24 hours without clean tap water is an inconvenience.  However, for so many families around the world, clean tap water isn’t something that can ever be counted on.  Water is dangerous — who knows what’s in it or if it’s safe?  Water is inconvenient — it has to be carried long distances from sources to where you need it.  Water is precious — washing hands with just half a cup is ordinary, rather than a strange anomaly.

That’s why the work that Church World Service does to bring water to areas without safe tap water is so important.  Each day around the world CWS is digging wells, laying irrigation systems, even providing plastic buckets, to help people access safe drinking water.  The CROP Hunger Walk supports these efforts.  Maybe, like me, you know more about the immediate impacts of the CROP Hunger Walk on our own community, contributing to the food bank and the community kitchen, but the work around the world is equally vital.  Our day without water reminded me of how much we take this precious resource for granted, assuming it will always be there when we turn the tap.  For many people it isn’t.  Supporting the CROP Hunger Walk is a way to help others gain access to clean, safe water — each day.

Click here to learn more about one of the programs through which CWS and CROP Hunger Walks connect communities to clean water.