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Keifer: Be grateful we enjoy clean water
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Among all the things we were thankful for at Thanksgiving, did you include clean water?

The watering bans in North Georgia may seem harsh to some. But by federal law, the 1972 Clean Water Act, we can draw a glass of water from any tap and drink it. No boiling or other purification is necessary.

Many aren’t aware that there is a Federal Office of Water. Part of the Environmental Protection Agency, it “ensures that drinking water is safe and restores and maintains oceans, watersheds and their aquatic ecosystems to protect human health, support economic and recreational activities, and provide healthy habitat for fish, plants and wildlife.”

In my temporary Chinese home, the water looks clean coming out of the faucet. But it still needs to be boiled before consumption, even for brushing teeth, which is annoying.

In Georgia, we’re encouraged to conserve. But I can’t recall a time when I opened a faucet and nothing came out. Georgia’s water shortages, though serious, are small compared to hardships in other parts of the world.

In southeastern Africa, drought and water shortages are catastrophic in landlocked Zimbabwe, especially in the densely populated capital, Harare. With 1.6 million residents, and the main reservoir almost dried up, the city is finding it impossible to keep supplying water to households.

Residents spend hours waiting in line to get buckets filled at boreholes. But using water from a shallow well, without it first passing through a treatment plant, carries risks that boiling won’t alleviate. Gasoline and oil from vehicles ride on top of the water layer. The shallower the hole, the greater the likelihood of contaminated drinking water.

One doesn’t even have to go to Africa to encounter such burdens. Just 3,500 miles south of Atlanta is Peru, home of the world’s driest desert. In many suburbs of the capital, Lima, municipal water supply is an impossible dream.

True to the saying “there’s always somebody who’s got it worse,” people living in the satellite community of San Juan de Lurigancho don’t just have to get their bath water from buckets, like the Harare residents. Surrounding Lima are steep, dusty hills, and those who can’t afford the water truck fees must carry water many steps uphill. The poorer the people, the higher they have to climb.

Considerations like this make it meaningful to include “clean water” in our annual Thanksgiving.