Montreal’s water situation: a sad statement on what we find to make stories of

I’ve been watching the situation with Montreal’s boil water advisory with a mix of bemusement and consternation. I honestly cannot believe the tempest in a teapot that the media in Quebec are whipping up over a non-issue. Lets examine some of the key facts:

1. Something happened to the water supply level that caused sedimentation in the system to get kicked up;

2. Staff decided to send a PRECAUTIONARY boil water advisory;

3. There were some problems with getting the word out in a timely fashion, and some wanted politicians, not bureaucrats to be the talking head to the issue;

4. As far as anyone can tell, other than a little dirty water, there is no actual health risk.

I hate to say it, but this seems to me as one of those things that should be a minor news point, not one that is the leading story any time I flick the radio on for the past two days. It’s something where everyone involved can walk away from saying “hey, I’ve got a few lessons learned from this, and can take some measures to ensure that if something serious were to happen, I will be prepared.” A little over a million people in Montreal don’t have access to clean drinking water. They have to boil it for a minute before they can use it. Most likely, they are doing this in their homes, and getting the water from the taps that are in their homes.

Let’s take a moment here to think about the people who are truly affected by the lack of clean drinking water. Somewhere between 700 and 800 million people do not have access to clean drinking water. We aren’t talking about a little sediment that makes the water look yucky. We’re talking about the kind of water that makes you terribly sick and has good chances of killing you kind of water. Let’s not forget that, about half the world’s population don’t have access to water in their homes. They have to walk a ways, sometimes a very long ways, to get their water. Then they have to boil the heck out of it on a fire, that they probably build with sticks and a variety of dried animal dungs, and are left mostly with a little bit to drink in some form of tea or other. They don’t simply pop a pot on the stove and flick a switch for ten minutes.

Did I mention they have to do it their entire lives? Not a few hours or a couple days, but every single day they are on this earth.

It may simply be the privilege I’ve had to travel to some of the world’s most difficult and primitive spots that has given me the perspective to take a moment and breathe before losing my mind over a short-lived inconvenience. For this to be making such a furor in the headlines is either a sad statement of how soft and completely insulated from the rest of the world we have become, or what lows politicians are willing to stoop to in order to score some points against the opposition.

Either way, I’m not impressed. I’ll wager most of the planet isn’t either.

Hopefully the experience will make some people take the time to think about some of those people out there that are in terrible need, and take some action to make things better.


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