National Geographic : 1993 Nov 30
Mexico, 15 percent of the population must haul or carry water. In Mississippi so many people still have no running water that a con gressman made supplying it to them a major personal crusade. Long after visiting Fairbanks, I landed at Greenville, Mississippi, and talked with Mard Webb, 86, whose home nearby was connected to a new water supply in 1992. Until then she had carried three buckets a day across the street from a house that had a well. Now, though her house has no indoor plumbing, she has a brand-new pipe and faucet on her porch. "I don't have to tote no more," she said. "Sure is good." A neighbor, Betty Taylor, who now has running water indoors, was more effusive. "It's like a miracle!" The miracle is that so many people do get water in their homes without buckets. This miracle is not an acquired taste; you get used to it right away. And you use convenient water far more than you would if you carried it. Mard Webb toted about ten gallons a day, and Teresa Lord drove five buckets home in her Subaru. But a typical United States household uses about a hundred gallons a day-per person. Countrywide, that is 25 billion gallons of water a day roaring toward laundry, mop, and tub. It's toted for us, as if by magic, through hidden pipes in every town and city. The grand est of these is in New York. 11 y ou'VE GOT TO SEE the Chamber at Site 2B," said Mike Krysko, an administrative engineer with the New York City Bureau of Water Sup ply. He spoke with delight, as if recommend ing a great horror movie: "Your jaw will hang open." New York's structure of dams, aqueducts, and tunnels, most of it below the surface, sup plies nine million people with 1.5 billion gal lons of water a day. The city draws water from the Catskills over a hundred miles north into two major tunnels each twice the height of a basketball player and dug as deep as 800 feet under the city, from which it's distributed by 6,000 miles of pipe. A lot of water and a lot of pressure: When a 36-inch main broke adjacent to a park rest room in 1989, it looked like a bomb had hit. As we drove toward the Cham ber, Krysko remembered the disaster with rel ish: "It just ate that building alive," he said. The Chamber was 250 feet under the Bronx. Spiritual bath U "He poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples' feet." Jesus' humble act, described in the Bible, inspires Christians in Knoxville, Tennes see. In cultures worldwide, water is a source of spiritual nourishment. Frequently used in rituals, it is endowed with a range of mythic and symbolic properties.