Life without potable water is no picnic

Close-up of tap water

Image via Wikipedia

I’ve been eating Tootsie Rolls and donut holes at work today.  This has more to do with the end of the academic year and my expanding waistline than it does the Great Boston Water Crisis.  But, for the record, neither contains water, so at least I don’t have to boil them.

Things like the Great Boston Water Crisis mobilize my wife, Kathy. It’s in her DNA, I think.  So when we returned on Sunday from New York City, where we had gone to attend the wedding of a friend’s son, Kathy got right to work protecting the dog, the cat and us from — unspecified bad germs.

It all had to do with a “catastrophic” break in the pipe carrying Massachusetts  Water Resources Authority H2O to some 2 million people in Boston and surrounding towns. Soon Gov. Deval Patrick had declared a state of emergency and ordered everyone to boil their water or buy the bottled variety.

Now, at our house, the lemonade pitcher has something in it that allows me to use tap water to rinse the dishes. The big black lobster pot is filled with boiled water to wash them — not just any boiled water, but water brought to a rolling boil for five minutes (that’s four more than the minute stipulated by the state’s advisory).  Two other pots filled with backup boiled water are on the stove.

Upstairs is a gallon jug of store-bought water and a small pot that can be used either as a scoop or substitute sink, I guess, if I really want to rough it.

And my instructions at 6:30 a.m. today, as I raised my left eyelid, were to only use paper plates and cups and plastic forks and knives. (I don’t like plastic and paper, so I used dishes … but please don’t tell my wife).

Mind you. In no way do I wish to make light of the Great Boston Water Crisis.  To the contrary, it is a serious reminder of all we take for granted. Turn on the tap in the United States and you expect something safe to come gushing out. That is certainly not true everywhere in the world. The web site estimates that nearly 1 billion people worldwide don’t have safe drinking water and 2.5 billion don’t have access to adequate sanitation.

So the notion that it’s somehow a hardship to drink beer and wine and eat Tootsie Rolls while the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority seals a really big seam joining two of its really big water pipes seems rather precious. The shower still works in my house; I just can’t drink it.  (The toilet does, too, though I’ve never been inclined to drink it.)

Still, I don’t much care for this water emergency. Starbucks isn’t selling coffee today. Neither is Dunkin’s. And I’m getting a headache. What’s more,  I get thirsty just thinking about turning on the tap. And though a student of mine who tends bar tells me beer was selling, well, like water on Saturday, I don’t believe it cleanses the system in quite the same manner.

It does now appear that properly treated water may be running through my house’s pipes as early as sometime tomorrow.  That will be a relief for another reason as well: I keep struggling to solve the riddle of why the MWRA insists that I serve boiled or bottled water to my golden retriever Murphy, who eats sticks, mud and much worse, and drinks from puddles in the street.

Murphy looked a bit mystified himself this morning when I poured his water from a jug — especially after I told him, just before I left, to only eat off of the paper plates.


About jerrylanson

I teach, write, coach and sing, though you're not required to listen to the latter. I'm a journalism professor at Emerson College in Boston. My third book, "Writing for Others, Writing for Ourselves," was published in November by Rowman & Littlefield Publishing. You can read a sample chapter at My passions are politics (generally liberal in outlook), music, mountains, golden retrievers and my grandchildren, though not in that order. Please stop by and mix it up with me. I always answer those who post.
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