Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Water for Haiti

We have all been watching the news from Haiti for days now, and although the initial shock of the crisis has passed, there is still an overwhelming need for aid. We are told that the best thing we can do is send money to a reputable organization that will then be able to purchase goods and provide services. Many of us have already done this and will continue to do so.

Last night I watched as the TV showed gallon jugs of water being unloaded from a ship that is unable to dock. People passed the jugs from one person to the other. Other photos focused on the distribution of small bottles of water – the ones so many of us carry around and think nothing of the cost of that water.

The cost of water can be identified. Sure we have all been told that bottled water costs more than oil; depending on where you shop or where you buy it, a 16 ounce bottle can be 89 cents at the grocery store or $5.00 at a rock concert. Tap water costs a whole lot less. According to the American Water Works Association, the average price of tap water is $1.50 per 1,000 gallons, which is less than a penny a gallon.

But those are all costs in the United States, where both bottled and good tap water are readily available. What are the costs of getting any water to Haiti? Given the extreme need, the extreme destruction and the extreme everything else there, I can’t even begin to calculate it. I don’t even know how to begin the research.

Clean water is needed for drinking, but it is also essential to public health, fire protection, and economic development. We may be able to calculate the cost of water, but its value is priceless.

I may never get the opportunity to stand hand in hand with George Clooney (alas) or any of the other superstars who are active raising money for Haiti, but I can support their efforts. So can you, if you haven't already. My hope is that you already have. The need is enormous.

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