Sometimes, you don’t miss it till it’s gone.


I live in one of the nearly 15 million U.S. households that depend on well water. Most days, I don’t give it a second thought. Turn the faucet on and … BAM! Cool, refreshing water. A little high in acidity, perhaps, but good-quality well water. Nothing worth complaining about.

That is, until our submersible well pump gave up its ghost.

I will back this up just a second to say there was a warning sign. Two weekends ago, our water turned brownish-red for about an hour. We ran some sprinklers and it was gone. Hey! Problem solved. Homeowner win. Attaboys all around! And then, this past weekend, we left for the day, came home, turned on a faucet, and a measly pencil-width flow trickled out.

Related: CH2M HILL WaterMatch launches global university program to promote water reuse

And then nothing.

I flew into a panic. No water! No WATER! Oh.my.gosh. We don’t have water! What are we going to do! (Insert high-pitched screaming as the kids tried to fill water guns and flush toilets.)

I couldn’t start the dishes or the laundry, or even wash my hands. And what about my plants? We immediately instituted the “if it’s brown flush it down; if it’s yellow let it mellow” rule. 

Related: Water and wastewater entities nominated for technology award

Somehow, my 6-year-old, who was way overdue for a shower and a soapy scrubbing, was the only one happy about the situation. I think I even caught him grinning.

After the panic subsided and we had sort of narrowed down the problem to a pump or a pressure tank issue, I spent some time mulling over what we talk about all the time in this industry: the value of water. As an online editor for Treatment Plant Operator, I read about it every day. I watch as utilities across the country try desperately to make their customers understand the importance of dependable, safe water. I’ve always believed that message, but in that day and a half without water, I truly understood it.

Folks, we are so lucky to have safe drinking water in this country.

Related: Blog: Charity raises awareness for water crisis with photo contest

I spent this past weekend thinking about countries where women carry water every day, rationing each precious drop. I thought about stories I’ve worked on about Water For People, which supplies safe drinking water to underdeveloped nations. I thought about Detroit and other cities that are implementing water shut-offs. I thought about our own family, and how much of this precious fluid we wash down the drain every day. I spent a good chunk of the weekend going through many past TPO stories in my head. It was an “aha” moment.

So, I can’t say I have a huge revelation to share you with you all. But at the very least, I wanted to say “thank you” for the role you play in supplying this country with clean water. I guess I’m a little sorry it took a broken well pump for me to understand that.

P.S. And thank you to Hedberg Well Drilling of Eagle River, Wisconsin, for the quick fix and for taking the time to explain your business. The West family is grateful to have the tap working again and the toilets in flushable condition. Oh, and we're very happy to report a certain 6-year-old is now sparkly clean.

Subscribe: If you don't want to bring your iPad into the bathroom, we can send you a magazine subscription for free!

Related Stories

Like this story? Sign up for alerts!