When I first left nursing quarters in Utqiagvik to live in the village, I found out about chopping ice for water. I learned how precious every drop was because of how hard it was to get it, melt it and then dispose of it if it was dirty. I used and reused water. Dirty water could be used for plants. Water used to boil an egg could be used again. Water used to cook pasta could then be used to wash dishes. Clothes rinse water became clothes wash water. The creativity went on and on.
Then we moved to a house with plumbing. (Thanks, North Slope Borough). It had a 300 gallon water tank – I think it was 300. Whatever it was, Joe the Waterman used to come every week to refill it. At first, having running water again seemed so amazing that I found myself forgetting everything I learned about water conservation. Then the water bill came.
Joe the Waterman showing up so often to fill the tank had just seemed like a fun way to visit with Joe and get enough water for a long shower. After getting the bill, it suddenly didn’t seem so much fun. When you are forced to face how much water you use by how much money you have to pay, you start to immediately rethink how you use it again.
I live in Anchorage now. Joe the Waterman is in heaven, bringing water and smiles to the Goddess. And still I find myself cringing when I see someone turn on the faucet and walk away while the water gets hot. I am horrified by long showers. I shudder every time I see someone pour a pot of water down the drain.
Don’t really know the moral to this story except that maybe we’d all be better off if we remembered the cost of every gallon of water we waste.