First published in The Franklin Journal

It’s another warm day here in Maine. The Weather Channel has predicted temps of high 80’s to low 90’s.  We’ve had barely enough rain this summer to wet your whistle, but I have reveled in the sun’s rays and the joy of writing. It’s been a summer of iced coffees on the deck with birds, squirrels and a resident mouse entertaining me, as I put my thoughts into digital format. This morning I am coveting a Costa Rica Medium Dark Roast. There’s another pot brewing to be iced later. It’s promising to be a long writing day. I’m ready.


As I listen to the cows do their morning, complaining ritual, I am pondering the main ingredients of my beverage. Coffee and water.  Just the full-bodied flavor of Costa Rica Fairtrade coffee. It’s been remarked that if there’s one thing a reader knows about me, it’s that I love my coffee. Today my interest is beyond the bean. You may know that I’m particular about seeking out Fairtrade beans. I’m particular about the water used to make it, as well. Its source influences its flavor. If you’re a coffee lover, you’ll understand that a bad cup can make your taste buds revolt. Water that has been processed with chemicals like chlorine, can especially ruin a pot of coffee. The best coffee is made with potable, spring water, fresh off the mountain or from a clean, backyard well, like my family had.


My childhood home had a dug well with a hand pump, which provided drinking water when modern inventions failed. This system taught me water didn’t magically appear. If the well was running low, we would conserve water by using the pump for potable water and the lake for other uses. Mom used environmentally friendly products, teaching me that everything we put into the ground comes through water. Whether pumped by hand or electricity, water came from the same place. It was to be respected.

Much of the world sources their water from a hand pump.

Much of the world sources their water from a hand pump.

During a visit to New York City when I was nine, my aunt explained to me that she had to pay for her water, so be careful of how much I used. She emphasized that money shouldn’t be our motivator, we should be respectful of our resources and not waste them.


As a child, I had yet to make a full connection, but I remember thinking that the city had created an illusion that water was infinite and yet, it was not free.


Water must be respected. It is life giving.

Decades later, I found myself debating water rights with the Harrington, Delaware mayor who was proud that he had instituted a “pay for water” system. He was stunned I was not impressed. I patiently taught him about water rights. With an open mind, he came back for three more rounds and began to consider clean water access as a right.

  • Water is essential to life.
  • More than a billion people lack access to safe drinking water.
  • We use water to grow, wash and prepare our food.
  • Realization of the right to water is a democracy action.


The United Nations General Assembly has recognized water as a human right and clean drinking water as essential to the realization of all other rights, but recognition is not enough. The United States is the number one consumer of water, but access to clean water is under attack. The aquifer in Kingfield, Maine is now owned by Nestle, where their company highway sign proclaiming “Poland Spring” is a disguise. The right to water was sold to Nestle by those who chose money over people. Due to a potable water shortage, nearby residents to Fryeburg, Maine are having to buy back the very water they sell to Nestle. The fight continues in California between corporations and water activists. Native Americans, peaceably fight for clean water, safe from the ravages of fracking.

I can’t teach you everything about this issue in one column. I hope to at least grow interest. With the knowledge that only 3.5% of the earth’s water surface is fresh water and our lives depend on it, we have to be aware of water origination. That access comes at a cost. And it’s up to us what the cost will be.

Bankrupt water systems, water shortages, and contaminated sources are warnings to wake up to understanding we are not doing right by our people or our planet.


Take these warnings not in fear, but as notice that it is not too late as individuals and a collective to do something to reverse this trend.