Water, sweet water

Day 9–July 12 (McConnellsburg, PA-Breezewood, PA, 18 miles)

I would not have thought it was possible to be worried about water while still walking on the east coast. The day started with three water bottles, plenty to last the day. But it was hot outside, and I drank most of one water bottle before I sat down sometime late in the afternoon to take a short break from the punishing sun. Then, in a greedy act to drink faster than the built-in straw would allow, I unscrewed the top. Suddenly I spilled an entire bottle of water.

I still managed to push ahead and climb Sideling Hill, elevation 2,195 feet. But I was uncomfortable not having surplus water. What if I really needed it? What if there was nowhere to get a refill? The park at the summit of Sideling Hill had water but it was non-potable and the drinking fountain was dry.  I didn’t like to even think about the possibility of running out of water. Of course this is a luxury few in the world can afford. Some one billion people worldwide lack access to clean water according to the United Nations. In the United States, data collected by the National Drought Mitigation Center shows one third of the country in drought. And a report in the Encyclopedia of Earth, The Myth of Universal Access to Water and Sanitation in the US, suggests that despite the perception of 100 percent access to clean water and sanitation in the United States, thousands of families are without working toilets or clean water or face service shut-offs as a result of nonpayment.

While working as a reporter in central New York I was told about the many families living with no indoor plumbing–those who had a straight pipe directly into the Susquehanna River, which in turn flows into the Chesapeake Bay. The most recently published American Housing Survey in 2005 estimates that approximately 2 percent of all housing units lack some indoor plumbing. In a nation as wealthy as the United States no one should be without access to clean water and indoor plumbing.

– By Jennifer E. Cooper