By Caterin Duarte Reynosa, San Rafael High School, MMWD 2019 Water Scholar
For the first ten years, I lived in a poor community where clean water was a luxury only
rich people could afford. In Guatemala as a whole country, most people don't have access to clean water. Most of my neighbors and friends would get their water supply from the river at the edge of the town. The same river in which many of my neighbors would shower, wash their clothes, and fished. As someone who grew up with the indigenous people of Guatemala, I was taught to always protect our water. Guatemala is a country with many rivers and lakes. As the consumption of waste started increasing, the pollution of our water rose as well. Whenever we traveled to different parts of Guatemala, I noticed that the rivers were filled with trash. In response, kids tried to clean the water, by picking up the plastic that was near the shore at least once a week, but the waters still remain dirty. My family was lucky because we didn't have to struggle quite as much to access clean water. We used to get it from a well that belonged to my great-grandparents. I could imagine that the well had many dead insects in it and other debris, but to us, that was cleaner than a public river that collects contaminated runoff, and we had access to it whenever we wanted water. When I was around eight years old, my parents, who by then were overseas, chose to invest in clean water by sending us money to Guatemala to buy a big water tank which we would replenish with potable water every two months. The big tank was located outside of our house in our backyard. The tank changed my life forever. I was so used to going to a bathroom, portable style, where flushing wasn't an option, and used to drinking water from an old well. With the new tank, we were able to build a modem sink, and we were able to buy washing and drying machines. I was able to shower every day of the weeks, unlike my friends who could only shower three times a week. We were the only family in the town who had this privilege, so we tried to help out our neighbors by donating any leftover water we had. When I was around ten years old, I migrated to America, specifically Marin County, to reunite with my parents. Seeing how easy and accessible clean water was to people was a huge cultural shock for me. I was used to seeing people carry buckets of water to their homes, whereas here people had water at the turn of a faucet in every comer of the house. Ready access to real clean water has inspired me to value it more. As one who was taught to always preserve water, even dirty water, because it was expensive, I find it extremely important to conserve and protect the clean water we often take for granted, even in the face of drought. I am keenly aware that not everyone has the privilege of claiming access to it as we do in San Rafael. To my community, clean water is a blessing. Most of the people who live in the Canal district of San Rafael, California, where I reside, know firsthand that clean water is critically important to us because of our migration background. Indeed, in their home countries, drinking dirty water leads to many illnesses; here in Marin County, far from both Guatemala or, for that matter, Flint, Michigan, I seldom need to worry about contamination. I find neither dead animals nor trash when I open the tap. In other parts of this country, like in Flint, Michigan, clean water is not an option and people are forced to buy water bottles to survive. Clean water is a powerful resource that needs to be appreciated more pointedly than it usually is. Most people here take clean water for granted because they don't know how people from other parts of the world struggle for it. They don't know what it's like to live in a country where water, socially clean water, is limited. We are lucky to live in Marin County, a place know for its clean water. Making an effort to save water and to reduce the amount of water we use every day will ensure that we always have clean water. As a community, we should all respect and protect our water resources if we want them to be part of our lives in the future.
My name Caterin Duarte and I’m a student at San Rafael High School. I’m a first generation student looking forward to explore my passion as well as my education in college.