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.

Copyright Environ Press 2007