Few of us care about issues that don’t impact us directly, at least not in sustained or action-producing ways.

In fact, I brushed off a family member’s concerns about the drought in California when I visited her last  year. She didn’t want help with the dishes from the “midwesterners.” She thought me far too free with the flow of water.

Honestly, I felt irritated. I just didn’t get it.

After only two days of a water usage ban in my hometown, I understand more fully her care in conserving water. Southeastern Michigan, where I live, gets water from Toledo, Ohio. In our area, more than 500,000 people are affected by a water usage ban (do not drink, do not boil) as the result of an algal bloom in Lake Erie.

For our family, it doesn’t feel like a crisis — yet. We have plenty of bottled water to drink; we have friends with wells who have shared gallons of water for washing dishes and who have welcomed us into their homes to take showers. We can do laundry with cold water. If we were brave enough, we could shower (but not the kids!)

Necessity being the mother of invention, I figured out how to wash our family’s dishes with very little water. When washing dishes has a real and felt price tag ($1 per gallon of distilled water), it would be crazy NOT to conserve.

We are also using lots of paper plates and plastic cups, not an earth-friendly choice, but one that helps offset the inconvenience of living without running water.

When clean water is available in abundance, it is far too easy for us to take it for granted.

Yes, I have been careless in using water. I have not ever considered the source of our water supply or its sustainability. I like to take long showers and fill the bathtub extra full. I am not strict with my kids when they change clothes multiple times and I do countless loads of laundry each week as a result.

Unlike my family member in California who is in tuned with the water crisis in her area and mindful of its source, I will admit — I was happily oblivious before this.

As those in my area await the results of another round of results from tests to our water supply, as we wonder and wait to see how long this ban will continue, we have more questions than answers.

How long will this crisis last? What can be done to create a safe sustainable water source for our community? Who will lead this effort? What can individuals do to help?

I am more awake to these issues than before, but for how long? When we get the all-clear on our water, will I go back to carelessness? (I hope not.) Will everyone else in our area?

My plan for now is to stay mindful and grateful for the water we have, to help others as I can, and to stay informed so I can get involved in appropriate ways.

Tell me something!  Are you happily oblivious to water issues, or mindfully conserving? If you are affected by the water ban, how are you faring? How will you be different after the crisis passes?

 Here’s a blog post with instructions about how to contact Ohio politicians — a great way to get involved.