The Real Water Crisis


Okay, full disclosure: I'm a world traveler and I've been many places where the water was probably less potable than what's coming out of our taps right now. I like to think of myself as fairly intrepid. And I'm freaking out, just a little, over our current water crisis here in Boston.

Boston's Fecal Spill

Yes, it pales in comparison to the oil spill in the Gulf. And it pales in comparison to what others go through daily around the world to get fresh potable water, but we are having a pretty icky water crisis in and around Boston.

For those of you who haven't heard, there was a huge water main break on Saturday that caused the water supply to 30+ towns East of Weston to be contaminated with things like e. coli, fecal material and probably stuff like giardia. Here's our official "Boil Water Order".

Today the Globe reports "People in Boston and 29 of its most populous suburbs, whose clean-water supply was cut off by a catastrophic and unprecedented pipe rupture, remained without clean tap water for a third day." They also indicate it may resolve more quickly than originally anticipated. They were saying "weeks" before. This happened to coincide with what must have been record-breaking heat so the elderly and infirm are even more at risk.

As we stock up on bottled water (and by "we" I mean Doc) and boil water (that would be me) and sanitize dishes (again, me) and so on, I keep thinking of people the world over who must go through this hassle every day just to eat, wash, cook, etc.

And, I have to laugh at myself freaking over things like - whether kissing his cheek - bathed in the contaminated water - will give me a case of giardia two weeks from now -- and trying to recall if I santized this mug or that glass. In the heat of Sunday we went to Pho Hoa in Chinatown. (By the way, their renovations are complete and they now have a Banh Mi counter and a bar.) We had bun - thin rice vermicelli - with lemongrass stuffed beef and tea. Every sip of tea I wondered - did they really boil the water? Were the noodles boiled in pre-boiled water? Were the cooking and slicing surfaces washed with clean water? It's enough to make you crazy. Brush teeth with boiled water. They say showering is okay but if we wash our hands we must sanitze them after. What is sitting on my skin and in my hair all day?


Well, they're now saying 24-48 hours we might be done with it. "Heavily chlorinated water will be pumped through" to clean out bacteria. Then there's the giardia that we ingested before we got the notice...what's the sound of 90,000 toilets flushing? Come to Boston in two weeks, I'm sure you'll find out.

So we'll be inconvenienced and I'll have a good laugh at my own expense but what's the real issue with drinking water worldwide?

  • 884 million people, lack access to safe water supplies, approximately one in eight people.
  • The water and sanitation crisis claims more lives through disease than any war claims through guns.
  • Poor people living in the slums often pay 5-10 times more per liter of water than wealthy people living in the same city.
  • Without food a person can live for weeks, but without water you can expect to live only a few days.

For more on the world's water situation see

At least for now, there's beer, and Gin and Tonic made with ice from last week. And wine. I guess we can't complain too much.

Just for fun, here's a "giant microbe" plush toy version of the bacteria in our water.