Today is World Water Day. Water is not ubiquitous for everyone — issues with water present a crisis to 300,000,000 people in emergency situations every year.
Three hundred million people is a little over 4% of the people in the world. Just for reference, it’s also the approximate population of the United States; imagine if everyone in the United States didn’t have access to clean water… Most of us do, but some people don’t. For example, think about homeless people living on the streets or in their cars. For them, water isn’t a matter of walking in to the next room and turning on the tap.
I lived in Sonoma County years ago during a severe drought. I lived out in the country, and we got our water from a well. It didn’t take too long for the well to go dry. As a result of this, we had to have water trucked in every week for our basic needs. This wasn’t considered safe for drinking, so we also got bottled water delivery. I was in college then. The campus was only a few miles away and, ironically, had a large aquifer running underground. We went to the gym there to shower. In Marin County just to the south of us–one of the most affluent locales in the country–water rationing was in effect, limiting residents to 50 gallons per person per day (we averaged 22 gallons per person per day).
This went on for a couple of years. And then it started raining again. As a matter of fact, we went from drought to flooding. At first, people continued to use much less water than they had prior to the drought–but then our old water-use habits began to sneak back in. Even so, I never thought about water in quite the same way.
5 [Jesus] stopped at Sychar, a town in Samaria, near the tract of land Jacob had given to his son Joseph, 6 and Jacob’s Well was there. Jesus, weary from the journey, came and sat by the well. It was around noon.
7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8 The disciples had gone off to the town to buy provisions.
- John 4:5-8, The Inclusive Bible: The First Egalitarian Translation
This bible passage continues to tell of an infamous woman caught in a web of sexual sin and lies. But these verses are also important in both what they say and what they don’t say. Jesus is frequently searching for some alone time in scripture. Here he is, catching a few of those moments, sitting under the relative coolness under a shade tree to take refuge from the blistering noontime heat and sun. He’s in Samaria, but at a site that has historic significance. Walking through the desert has made him thirsty, and when a woman shows up to draw water from the well he asks (or demands, depending on which translation) that she give him a drink.
“Every day, all around the world, women are connecting with water. Indeed, water is at the core of women’s responsibilities in many societies, and millions of women and girls spend their days collecting and preparing water for cooking, cleaning, drinking and maintaining sanitation.” –The Nature Conservancy
The activity of water collecting and hauling is and always has been an important part of “women’s work” in much of the world. Not only is it critical in providing for their families, but it is also vital (e.g. vitas, “life giving”) for the women themselves–providing them an opportunity to be with other women for a brief time. This Samaritan woman had been shunned, not allowed to go get water when the other women were there in the cool of the morning; she had to go later, alone, during the heat of the day.
In the orthodox church, this woman later becomes St. Photina (Greek) / St. Svetlana (Russian), names that mean “light” and “pure.”
Interestingly enough, ultraviolet light is being used to make water pure, a technology that may well provide drinking water to many people around the globe. Maybe this invention should be called the Photina.
Water Questions & Answers from the USGS