When Washing Hands Isn’t Easy

I thought it would be easy to blog periodically as the semester started, way back in January, but my return to full-time teaching turned out to be more time-consuming than I planned…and then, Coronavirus was upon us. I am feeling compelled to carve out the time to say a few things about water in the midst of this crisis.

We in New York are facing a terrible pandemic, yet most everyone I know is doing so armed with a tool so basic that it is easy to take it for granted — access to clean running water with which to wash our hands. Most of us don’t give water a second thought when it comes to basic hygiene, yet around the country people too poor to pay their water bills are finding themselves facing a health crisis without the simplest form of self-protection. The Governor of Michigan recently halted water shut-offs for nonpayment, while parts of the Navajo Nation in Arizona do not have access to running water.

Meanwhile, as the pandemic revvs up on its way to Africa, there are millions of people who do not have access to clean water with which to wash. NPR reports that many parts of Africa have so little access that the habit of washing hands regularly has not developed in many communities — water is too scarce. In the face of the crisis, governments and media are working to change the habit and encourage people to use public handwashing stations — while at the same time maintaining social distancing.

I’m truly thankful for the services of my local water utility — so much of the world does not have what I do. Next time you receive your local water bill — give a thought to how much value you get out of every turn of the tap.

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