Installing a small water garden in my back yard seemed pretty decadent -- like something only really fancy people do. Nevertheless, since I am always looking for ways to eat up great expanses of my monoculture lawn, and, as I still have a ways to go on that front, I was easily persuaded. (Besides, my dad and I needed a new project, and adding a pond was just as good as any...)
Pretty much finished now, my water feature includes a bubbling fountain, a few water lilies, water hyacinth, arrowhead, black taro, and loads of parrot's feather along with several guppies and a few bright shubunkins
. For the most part, the fish hide beneath the plants and along the pond's cooler bottom, but sometimes I'll glimpse one gliding by, caught in a sunbeam.
I suspected I would find myself spending a lot of time peering into the pond, and I do. I also imagined the water source would attract more wildlife, and it certainly has. Birds regularly perch at its edge to sip and bathe, and, just today, I watched five of my honeybees
land on a lily pad to drink. Not long after that, a squirrel bellied up, braced himself with two paws, and leaned over to lap up the fresh water.
Something else has happened, too. I find myself thinking a lot about all of the people in the world who lack access
to safe drinking water
. The figure is one in five, I've read. One in five
people don't have access to life's most basic necessity, and here I have an embarrassment of riches just a few steps from my house; the water in my pond is likely better than that in parts of Africa, India, or Uzbekistan.
For every one of us who takes having potable water for granted -- and I think that is a staggering number -- there are thousands more for whom gathering enough water from day to day presents real hardship. Fortunately, there are non-profit organizations which are working to make things better, and a relatively small donation from me -- and maybe you, too -- can actually make a huge difference in the lives of people without reliable sources of water.
Story by Susan Brackney. This article originally appeared in Plenty in August 2007.