Thankful For Running Water In Our Home

By Kelly Thayer

Above: A giant eroded gully and seasonal water source in Endabeg Village, Tanzania circa 1996

During this week including Thanksgiving, FLOW staff are reflecting on their thankfulness for water. Whether it’s the vast and variable nature of Lake Huron or the water running from a household tap, water is at the center of our lives and our gratitude. We hope our writings inspire your reflection as well. Happy Thanksgiving from FLOW! 

I’m thankful for running water in our home. Hot and cold. Safe to drink.

Rural Tanzanian school kids bring buckets to haul water before or after school for their teachers and families

I’ve reflected on that fact nearly every day since returning with my wife from Peace Corps service 20 years ago. We shared a two-year glimpse into the daily life of rural people in Tanzania, East Africa, living without plumbing or electricity.

It was vivid and stark, and defined by water.

Nine months of drought, then ceaseless rain. Local people seeking water from a receding stream. Hauling full buckets by head or hand for surprising lengths. Then catching water from rooftops. Dry gullies turned to raging rivers.

We could afford to boil and filter our water. Few others could do so across a rolling and isolated landscape of subsistence farms and forest. Water-borne disease weakened many and took the lives of some, especially children.

It was shocking and sobering and humbling. And it left us with a changed sense of what matters.

And it eventually led my wife to work with native landscapes and me to work with FLOW. Fighting to keep water public, safe, and accessible. The Great Lakes, their tributaries, and groundwater – each of them sources of drinking water.

My wife Carolyn collecting plentiful rainwater off the roof in the wet season

Working in our home state. The Great Lakes state. Itself facing multiple water crises.

Lead in Flint’s water and people. Water shut off for tens of thousands of Detroiters. PFAS non-stick chemicals in water supplies, wells, and waterways across Michigan. Toxic groundwater plumes migrating toward wells. Line 5 oil pipelines in the Great Lakes, the drinking water supply for half of Michiganders.

These are ongoing and unacceptable emergencies. Our government must protect our public health, which depends on clean water, air, and land.

In order to protect our water, FLOW has created model legislation to regain public control and to prevent recurring crises like Flint and Detroit and windfall profits for bottled water companies like Nestlé.

FLOW developed the Public Water, Public Justice model bill to bring these colliding water crises under a comprehensive legal framework. To recalibrate Michigan’s priorities on protecting its water and its people. New leadership in Lansing should prioritize this stride toward water equity.

I’m thankful for running water in our home. Hot and cold. Safe to drink.

But I do not just assume it’s safe. I have queried my hometown regarding lead pipes, and I run the water when I rise to flush what sat in the plumbing overnight. I have looked up our city’s water supply here to check for PFAS contamination.

And I don’t stop reflecting on what matters to us all: Water. In our homes. Hot and cold. Safe to drink.

A view in the wet season from the back of a Land Rover of the only road through the region

Our friend Anna carrying her charge and a 40-pound water bucket on her head. All photos courtesy of Kelly and Carolyn Thayer. 








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By Kelly Thayer