The hospital bed in Nepal where I waited to see a doctor for three hours while suffering from a giardia infection in Dec. 2012. (Shannon Lough photo)

The hospital bed in Nepal where I waited to see a doctor for three hours while suffering from a giardia infection in Dec. 2012. (Shannon Lough photo)

COLUMN: My relationship with water

Reflecting on recovering from giardia in Nepal, and other close encounters with contaminated water

When I found out about the boil water notice, I had just drank about half of my water bottle full of Prince Rupert tap water. At first I was concerned. I’m still haunted by my date with beaver fever in Nepal, and many other pleasantries that are often a traveller’s right of passage in many parts of the world.

Having access to clean drinking water should be a human right, and it has been declared as such by the United Nations. However, there are millions of people around the world, including First Nations in Canada, who don’t have access to that right. There are 65 long-term drinking water advisories on reserves in this country, as of Dec. 14, according to Indigenous Services Canada. It has been over a decade since Prince Rupert has experienced a short-term advisory or notice on its water.

In 2014, I spent a month in northern India where the entire village lived with contaminated water, and I had no idea until after a couple weeks of washing my clothes my skin began to react in a rather irritating way. The local nurse told me that it was because my skin wasn’t used to their water. Fortunately, I was able to leave and recover. Yet my friends in that village didn’t all have the same option.

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As a teenager, I worked in a general store in a country village. We had an E. coli contamination in the water there, and the taps were shut right off. My boss at the time didn’t want to risk boiling water, so everything came from a treated water jug.

Once again, the boil water notice came and went.

Having to brush your teeth with water that has been boiled, or came from a grocery store, has taken me back to the many places I’ve visited in Asia where that was the norm.

We are so lucky in Prince Rupert to be able to drink straight from the tap — save this week — or collect delicious rain water outside.

There is water everywhere. My car doesn’t need to be washed, ever, and that surge of rainwater we just got is now turning the mountains into playgrounds for ski bums. This boil water notice is just a blip in the system to remind us of how great we have it here, when the water is clean. But I’ll rejoice when the city’s massive water project is complete and we can drink from Woodworth Lake again.

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shannon.lough@thenorthernview.com

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