It all boils down to this…

Would ya look at all that water

There’s water everywhere here – water in the canal, water in the Chagres River, lots of water falling from the sky, water constantly evaporating from all the vegetation and making the air incredibly humid until it rains again… But why can’t the water be where I want it, which is consistently coming out of my faucet?

The water pipes in Gamboa are old and leaky, so the water will go out sporadically and unpredictably. Usually it happens when I’m completely saturated in sweat after going for a run or feeling very thirsty and in need of a drink. That’s another thing – because the water pressure is inconsistent and external water can seep into the pipes, the water quality is questionable and we have to boil all our drinking water. Until now, I have never appreciated clean, running water so much.

On campus, I’m involved with Engineers Without Borders. Our chapter is partnered with communities in developing countries without access to clean drinking water and works with them to locate a safe water source and design and build a water distribution system. I work with the Uganda program and have seen photos that the travel teams have taken of children collecting water from muddy, contaminated holes. I’ve also worked to quantify our impact on the community and have read the residents’ responses to our surveys about how important the running water delivered by the system has been to them. This work has been a really meaningful part of my college experience and has challenged me reconsider how lucky I’ve been to always have running water.

However, seeing photos and reading responses on paper is quite different than actually experiencing firsthand the struggle of unreliable water that millions of people around the world face every day, which has luckily only been an inconvenience here. Realistically, when this is no longer a daily concern I will probably fill up my water bottle or wash my dishes without stopping to think twice about how amazing it is that I can turn a knob and get water. But hopefully when I’m upset about something I’ll be able to recall this experience and realize that as long as I can take a shower when I’m really sweaty, things aren’t that bad after all.

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