By Randal Meske
In a beautiful, remote area in Mexico on a brief getaway with some friends, we experienced the usual precautions necessary to stave off Montezuma's revenge: bottled water to brush our teeth, ice cube avoidance (which didn't bode well for the margarita lovers), etc.
Despite the fact that the causes for these concerns are far-reaching and include issues ranging from local geology to non-constant water flow in some of the delivery systems, we from the United States tend to exaggerate Mexico's potable water issue as we bask in her sunshine and enjoy her lovely beaches.
Other countries have similar challenges, yet escape the scrutiny of Mexico.
In the early 1980s, I was an exchange student in Germany. The day I arrived at my host family, I was encouraged to make myself at home and to expect to be treated as a member of the family. So, about 2 hours later, I waltzed into the kitchen, grabbed a glass, and began to fill it with tap water.
Unbeknownst to me at the time, my German host mother was quietly watching me as I brought the water glass to my lips for a drink. Her ensuing yelp scared the daylights out of me, and I nearly dropped the glass! I learned that one just doesn't drink tap water there...at least not in that household.
My German host father followed the incident with an account of an article he read that stated that a drop of drinking water in Germany had already been through something like 7 human beings prior to my turn.
Evidently, this number was much higher than most other places in the world. This isn't exactly the kind of information that makes one want to jump up and sprint for the faucet!
You don't read about regular instances of "Bismarck's" revenge in Germany, and you do brush your teeth with their tap water. However, being relegated to bottled water to quench your thirst seems more like Mexico than the United States to an American. We're pretty spoiled in the United States in that regard.
So, where do these water ways lead other than to bring back fond memories as a student abroad for yours truly?
Water regulation and management are critically important today. How the world treats, transports, and consumes water will only increase in importance with time.
According to a U.N. report called Water, a shared responsibility, the United Nations World Water Development Report 2 (WWDR 2): "Over 13 percent of the world's population - over 800 million people - do not have enough food and water to lead productive lives. Providing the water needed to feed a growing population and balancing this with all the other demands on water, is one of the great challenges of this century."
So, my questions are: what role do Environmental, Health, and Safety regulations play in the monumental challenge of water management? Should all countries rethink how they approach water programs, implementation and enforcement? What thoughts and experiences do you have regarding water management in general?
Please share your comments with us!