By Jim Lauria
In my last column, I referred to “men of a certain age,” zeroing in on the readers most likely to be fascinated in the ’70s and ’80s with both old monster movies and young Brooke Shields. But in no way do I believe water is a male problem (or a female one, at that). Water is an issue that unites us all.
A couple of colleagues who read my “Black Lagoon or Blue Lagoon?” column asked why I’d addressed only men in my lead sentence. In the spirit of fairness, I’m bringing back part of a Huffington Post column I wrote back in 2011 specifically to honor the connection between women and water.
It’s probably every bit as relevant now as it was more than four years ago. Following strong leadership from Christie Todd Whitman and Lisa Jackson, EPA is currently headed by another tough-minded woman, Gina McCarthy.
Administrator McCarthy has plenty of water issues on her plate, from the drought in the West to last year’s massive algal blooms that forced the shutdown of Toledo’s municipal water supply.
The recent discharge of mining wastewater into the Animas River put water quality issues — and EPA — front and center on peoples’ radar screens. It also made Administrator McCarthy’s number-one issue the need to demonstrate that EPA is committed to the protection of the country’s watersheds, and that she is just as committed to transparency and accountability.
Despite her high profile, Administrator McCarthy is just one of countless women of all ages in the trenches of the water battles. Here’s part of what I wrote on Valentine’s Day 2011:
… the female connection to water goes far beyond the symbolism found in literature and legend, well past the traditional symbolic links between women and the tides. In the developing countries of the world, right now, there are millions of women hauling water for their families from distant wells, rivers and lakes. According to the United Nations Population Fund, they’re walking an average of 6 km — 3.7 miles — per day to collect water. (Water weighs 8 pounds per gallon. Think about carrying a bucket of it for miles.) In conflict zones around the world, from Darfur to Latin America, they are risking their very lives as they walk those dangerous miles for water — and they’re carrying life itself back to their families….
Speaking of the EPA, the agency is helping Girl Scouts gain insight into water issues as young women from Brownies to Seniors earn their Water Drop patch, working their way through a beautifully crafted manual on water created in partnership with the Girl Scouts of America.
Boy Scouts can earn a Soil and Water Conservation merit badge, and they tackle water-and-oil questions in merit badges for chemistry and environmental science. But if they want to dive deeper into water, they’re better off taking their swim tests….
Come on, fellas. Here in the U.S., scientific literacy — and water literacy — are growing more important every day. Perhaps our Girl Scouts (and the leaders many of those young women will become) will help us understand and manage the pressing issues surrounding our water supply by choosing to become the next generation of scientists and engineers.
Back in the developing nations, the need is more basic and more desperate. After hours of bringing water back to their homes, millions of women have to make the decision — a real-life Sophie’s Choice — between supplying their growing children or washing their babies. Slake their thirst or clean their butts? Both are vital. Our mission should be to ease their burden — to make household water more locally available, and safer, so those women can keep their families healthy.
Jim Lauria is a water technology executive with over 20 years of global experience in the agricultural, municipal, industrial, and commercial markets. He is currently Vice President of Sales & Marketing for Mazzei Injector Co. LLC, a fluid design company that manufactures mixing and contacting systems. Jim holds a Bachelor of Chemical Engineering degree from Manhattan College. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.