This article appeared in the August 12, 2021 edition of the Monitor Daily.

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Coaxing trust from the tap

Jake May/The Flint Journal/AP
Connie Edwards holds a protest sign outside Genesee County Circuit Court in Flint, Michigan, July 13, 2021.

Say I asked you to do a quick word association with the noun “water.” Would your first response be trust?

Maybe not. But that’s what’s fortified each day that you turn on the tap and get clean water. And that’s what erodes – along with a sense of governmental accountability and justice – if that turn of the faucet delivers something you wouldn’t bathe in, let alone drink.

What is the ripple effect of that? What does it mean for the social contract that undergirds functioning societies?

We’re asking those questions as we report a series of stories on the sharp disparities in access to clean water across North America. But we’re watching something else as well: how a rise in citizen engagement may help close those gaps.

Water and social well-being are intimately connected. Just think about the sense of betrayal in Flint, Michigan, over the switch to a contaminated water supply in 2014. Or listen to salon owner Felicia Brisco, who spoke with Xander Peters recently in Jackson, Mississippi, about the toll of turning away customers for lack of water. Or read Sara Miller Llana’s story today from Six Nations of the Grand River, Ontario. As she reports, Indigenous communities are working to secure a voice in a new Canada Water Agency. What they bring, as scientist Ali Nazemi told Sara, is a “win-win” outlook, one that works with nature, and prioritizes fairness and agency.

Sara says that what struck her as she reported her story was how much work there is to do. But something else struck her as well: the opportunities, the possible paths forward. Those have long sat at the heart of our reporting. Xander puts it this way: “I ask everyone, ‘what does this mean for you?’ Yes, it’s a story about policy. But ultimately, it’s about our shared humanity.”

This article appeared in the August 12, 2021 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 08/12 edition
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