My breathing slowed and my eyes relaxed as I stared out a second-floor hospital window, deep in thought. Clouds were scattered across a vivid blue sky and brightly colored leaves tumbled in a cool fall breeze. It was November 26, 2007, and my second daughter Kynsi was born the night before.
August is National Water Quality Month, and at WSC we’re reflecting on why we care about the quality of our water. WSC Engineer, Antonia Estevez-Olea tells her story below.
For most people living in the United States, they cannot think of a time when they did not have access to clean water. While there have been disasters that may have temporarily made access more difficult, this country has had a stable, clean water supply, and delivery system throughout our lives.
It is not hard for me to imagine a life without this type of access – in fact, I don’t have to imagine it, as I lived it. I was born in Oaxaca, Mexico, and my experiences there have led to my love of and fascination with water.
When I was a little girl, I used to help my mom carry water from the only well available. The walk felt like it was 1,000 miles each way.
Our surface drinking water supply was not safe for drinking, but oftentimes it was our only option, and we were forced to use it. Sometimes when we consumed this water, we got sick. Knowing this, the government would teach women to boil the water before consuming or adding chlorine and our Elders knew about sand filtration. These mitigation strategies helped a bit but did not make it completely safe.
Seeing first-hand how water is crucial for survival and learning about water treatment from our community elders and government officials helped shape my future. Water is so cool and valuable, and I love the work I get to do as an engineer. I feel like my work is important as it will protect future generations and can lead to solutions that support communities all over the world.
Whether you’re a water engineer or a water user, there are things we can all do to help.
- Reduce fertilizer usage
- Pick up after your pets
- Don’t flush medicine or paint down the drain/toilet
- Organize neighborhood clean-ups, especially near bodies of water
This National Water Quality Month, I hope everyone takes a moment to reflect on how critical it is to protect water quality here and around the world.