It can be easy to take many staples of modern life for granted. Paved roads, safe food, building codes — they all contribute to the comfort and security we enjoy. One of the cornerstones of that array of services, and perhaps the most underappreciated, is safe and clean drinking water.
That’s why it’s so heartening to see Kansas Department of Health and Environment secretary Lee Norman emphasizing the importance of water quality in the state.
“One of the things that gets all the attention is water quantity, but I think we can't turn a blind eye to water quality," Norman said, according to The Topeka Capital-Journal’s Tim Carpenter. "We don't want a Flint, Michigan, in Kansas."
The challenges are becoming apparent. Norman has talked about making a case for replacing KDHE’s antiquated lab. Just recently, Lawrence was forced to allow wastewater to flow into the river after heavy storms.
The secretary’s aims include replacing the lab as well as collecting new information on private wells in the state. He also wants to improve the quality of city drinking water, he told the editorial advisory board.
"Our laboratory looks like something out of 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.' It's from the 1950s," Norman said. "It was an Air Force hospital back in the day. If you can imagine setting up a laboratory in a prison, that's kind of what it feels like."
The creation and maintenance of safe drinking water supplies is one of the triumphs of the modern world. This nearly free resource allows for health, hygiene and easy cooking at home. Think about all of the daily activities you perform that are made possible by reliable public water supplies.
These aren’t optional. Safe and clear water isn’t an Amazon drone delivering a package of walnuts to your door on a whim. It’s not a 3D IMAX movie theater complete with reclining seats and smell-o-vision.
Water is the definition of a public service — a general good made possible by the pooling of tax dollars and municipal workers. It’s an example of government at its best, providing a basic necessity that the private sector depends upon to innovate and grow.
Kudos to Norman for realizing and lifting up the subject. Kansans deserve a state government that works to strengthen basic services.
They might not be glamorous, but they’re irreplaceable.