Sunday, July 29, 2007

Drinking the Water

I ran out of water yesterday. Not tap water as I have a good supply in my building in Santo Domingo, but drinking water. The tap water here is not potable. Sometimes when I am in the countryside here and there is a well, I will drink the local water. But here in the city, there is often a rainbow reminiscent of a an oil spill in the water in the toilet bowl. Not for drinking.

My drinking water is delivered in 5 gallon bottles which cost about $1.20 each. I must use it to drink, to cook, to fill my ice cube trays. But I am lucky here, I just pick up my cell phone, call the local colmado (our little form of the Quick Stop) and a young man brings over the ten gallons on the back of his motor bike, carrying them up the three flights of stairs. It is not as if I have to walk five miles to the well or the river. So I don't feel bad here when I buy a bottle of water.

But my neighbors across the border in Haiti do. Most of the citizens there make up part of the bottom billion, those who live on less than $1 a day. It is rare that a town in Haiti has municipal water. One statistic that is batted about is that a Haitian has diarrhea for one week a month from the water supply.

The contrast of life in Haiti and life in the States - the poorest and the richest, living 600 miles apart - is most stark in the area of water. Americans, who all have healthy, potable water running out of every faucet in their homes, still spend over $16 million a year on bottled water. That is $500,000 a year for each Haitian.

And most of that is on bottled tap water. Just like the stuff that is running out of their faucets at home. Ah imagine the luxury of it! The streets must surely be paved with gold.

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