Getting the Shit Out of the Water

That was the answer.
What was the question?
“What was the greatest public health achievement of the modern era?”
The questioner was a journalist on PBS, and the respondent was a physician and a professor of public health.
We didn’t start getting some kind of sewage treatment here in the US until about the mid 19th Century. Before that, I guess you took your chances. Considering that the Romans had basic sewage treatment 2000 years ago, it’s amazing that it took us this long to reinvent the wheel. The Vandals didn’t just deliver the final blows to an empire; they committed a crime against humanity itself. British nationalists who despise the Romans bore me. Go back to your “houseforts” and your insane and incessant warring.
I’ve been dabbling in European history around the 1600’s-1700’s. There were periodic and horrific epidemics that would sweep Europe, sparing scarcely a soul. They hit from Poland to Sardinia at least. A particular region would be cleaned out, Final Solutioned. Pretty much everyone would be dead. Brand new folks would show up to colonize the exterminated towns. It looks like a number of these epidemics were due to poor sanitation.
I guess shitty tasting water is something you can get used to. In Vietnam, the US military went into some village and put a sewage treatment system in. I don’t know what the water tasted like before, but after treatment, no one would drink the purified water. It didn’t have the same old taste they were used to.

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8 thoughts on “Getting the Shit Out of the Water”

  1. What about the Arabs and their closed-path oases? Did they have the dirtiest water of all, or did they invent some kind of purification system early on that enabled them to do well?

  2. You can get the shit out of the water, but you can’t get the water out of the shit. No – on consideration, it’s hard to think of an instance where this statement might actually apply. Pity – it’s got a nice ring to it.

  3. “Before that, I guess you took your chances.”
    You’ve probably already read about this before, but a big reason beer has been especially popular down through the ages is that it was often safer to drink the locally-produced beer than the local shit-tainted water supply because the fermentation of beer apparently kills many of the most harmful bacteria, thus reducing water-borne diseases. Maybe in some places many people were perpetually low-level functioning drunks as they had no other choice but to avoid drinking the bad local water and instead opted for the safer beer instead?
    ‘Shit in the water’ is a main reason why megacities freak me the hell out – places like Los Angeles, Mexico City, and other gargantuan hellhole cities drink the same shit-laced water over and over and over, only ‘treated’ in between. Disgusting.
    And guess what happens when the water woes in Mexico City get REALLY bad as they currently are? –
    An exodus to El Norte, of course.
    Damn Hispanics…their apparent lack of future planning and lack of birth control use is causing them to soil their own nests and as such they choose to move themselves in the U.S on a mass scale to alleviate their problems, thus becoming OUR problem. Sickening!

  4. “What about the Arabs and their closed-path oases?”
    Not sure exactly, but if you look at Arab history amongst the desert-dwelling tribes you will notice that a large portion of their wars and skirmishes and uprisings and such can be traced back to or revolve around various groups bickering and fighting over the precious few water sources: lakes, wells, springs, oases, etc.
    Also a main reason why the historical desert Arab populations never let themselves get completely out-of-control…they learned over many millenia that their living environment had/has a very limited carrying capacity because of difficult access to decent water and as such limited their population to naturally sustainable levels lest many die of thirst. Western technologies like ‘water treatment’ and desalinization though have allowed desert Arab populations to increase massively…yet another example of stupidly helping competing ethnic/racial groups to outbreed them and export surplus populations to their lands.

  5. Well, I would be interested to know how the Arabs deliberately limited their populations. Probably back in those days most populations were limited. Human populations don’t really start taking off until the modern era. Malthusian logic kept the #’s pretty low until 1800 or so.
    Actually, I kind of like Arabs and to me they are definitely White. But I love my whole Caucasian family. I am an ethnocentric Pan-Caucasianist. We have some Arabs around here and they cause no problems whatsoever and act way better than the local Blacks, Hispanics and even non-Arab Whites!

  6. Well, Mexico does not even have a really high birthrate anymore, and Brazil is now below replacement (better than we are). Mexico’s birthrate has plummeted since 1960 or so. It is still above replacement all right though.
    I am not sure what is going on with Mexico but a good part of that country is simply a desert.
    Actually, I had never heard that about the beer being safer than the water. I think I had heard that about wine in Biblical times though. Those guys were always drinking wine in the Bible because supposedly the wine was usually good enough to drink, but you never knew about the water!
    I guess I was drinking shitty water in LA for many years. Tertiary treatment is about as good as it gets. The stuff is damn clean.
    Up in these mountains it is even worse. Everyone has wells, there is no water system, and worse there is no sewer system because everyone is a rugged individualist who hates the gubmint. Well, of course a lot of the local septic tanks have started to leak and now guess what is leaking into the water table and the creeks. You got it. I have heard that up in Idaho and Montana there have even been some cases of cholera from drinking shitty water from the local wells tainted with leaking septic tanks. The state has just ordered the locals that they have to pay to have their septic tanks inspected now once in a while to make sure they are not leaking and all of the rugged individualists are having a shit fit. Inspections are better. Why wait for the first case of cholera?
    What’s interesting is if you were on a mountain and had your well below your leaking septic tank and your OWN shit was getting into your OWN water, you could drink it and not get sick, because you can drink your OWN shitty water all day and all nite. On the principle that you can’t catch a disease you already have. You could catch something from someone else in your home, but after 6 months living together, everyone’s bugs equalize and you can’t catch anything from anyone in your home anymore. There’s always visitors…

  7. Most developing nations (at the 3rd world as opposed to the 4th) have bottled water available, and most people buy it.

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