What we drink and how we drink it is something we take for granted in the modern age. But regardless of your beliefs about Global Warming (it’s real) or Over Population (it’s a problem), we know the human body needs water. Without it, we will die. We can live longer without food or protein or any kind of nutrition than we can without water. For a long time, the history of the world and many cultures was dictated by water (check out Elixir: A History of Water and Humankind by Brian Fagan) and as water has become a common resource, we’ve moved on to other beverages and how what we drink displays our status (check out A History of the World in 6 Glasses by Tom Standage).
Camping this last week with my kids got me really thinking about how we take water for granted. We have a lovely old 1980s camper that has a water tank and waste tanks. We can load in water and haul out the waste so the sinks, toilet, and even the shower are useable when we aren’t connected to water systems. Last week we were in the most beautiful location ever, right on a peninsula on Seven Points Lake in Pennsylvania. You could see water out every window in the camper and could walk right down into the gentle slope into the water. It was too cold to swim, but I did enjoy putting my feet in! Fish jumped and ducks waddled around our campsite.
While we were there I discovered what a precious commodity water was when you weren’t directly connected to it. On our first night, we had a waterline break, losing half our stored fluids. Taking it back out to the refill station required rehooking and packing everything away, driving out, hooking up, filling the tank, and while we were there, draining the gray and black water tanks. It took about an hour.
We did this two more times over a 5-night stay.
It doesn’t seem like much, but it’s solidly a two person job. I probably COULD do it myself if I had to, but it wouldn’t be easy or nearly as fast. It’s physically intense (jacking up a camper with full tanks isn’t easy!). It required daylight and at least an hour. Every time I washed a dish or flushed our little toilet, I thought about how much water I was using. We showered in the bath house because one shower could drain the entire tank.
I’ve been aware of water usage in the past as a concept. I’m not particularly conservationist minded although I do think I should be. Mostly, I’m aware of how much water costs. That alone is a point of privilege. I can afford to pay for my water. But when it comes to the physical realities of getting water and running out of it, I really had no idea. And I was camping for fun with a bathhouse in walking distance. I do not live in Flint, or Standing Rock, or the desert planes.
Access to water is a common tool in Science Fiction novels, from surging oceans to depleted resources, water is a fundamental necessity, and one of the fun things to do with Sci-Fi is playing with our assumptions of what constitutes necessity and how much is enough. In DUNE, an entire culture (the Fremen) is based around use and reclamation of water. When water stops being an issue, the culture is destroyed, even though before that all the Fremen wanted was more water.
The Jakkattu Vector and the upcoming The Jakkattu Insurrection both deal with water, although quite differently. In TJV, water is available, although not always potable. The ocean isn’t just salinated but acidic, and the rain, while usually drinkable, can become a toxic corrosive with one flash of lightning. The ground water is drinkable, but there’s little to find if you live in the Human Reservations, and the technology needed to reach it is dependent on the generosity of the Mezna Aliens. So water is there, but it comes at great cost. Every drop must be used, gray water, black water, and everything in between.
In The Jakkattu Insurrection, the prison planet Peritha has no precipitation. All water is hauled in from off-planet and used as both reward and punishment for the prisoners. Access to water is the center of their life. It doesn’t exist without their wardens, even overthrowing the system wouldn’t help because the Mezna could simply stop delivering water, leaving the Jakkattu on the surface to die of thirst. On Peritha, water is literally life. But what is the reason there is no water, what if the thing the Mezna are so afraid of, lives within the water. What is water also holds life?
Check out the first book in the series today. Book two will be coming this fall!