“Clean Water Shouldn’t be a Luxury”

A reflection on drinking “River Water” for 36 hours – David Stephenson, Founder, Engineers in Action

Like most fasters, I fast from all food during the Clean Water Fast and from all caffeinated drinks (which for me is much harder than food). I only drank tap water.

But as I drank it, I realized that our goal for those in Bolivia was to bring them UP TO US TAP WATER. That Tap water, by US standards, was THE luxury we were striving for. They drink river water: brown, dirt floating around, making you and their children sick.

So, for the last few years, when I fast I drink my (safe) simulated ‘River water’. It’s pretty simple: take tap water, add brown food coloring to make it look — uninviting. Add pepper to simulate dirt — a lot of pepper. It looks and it smells BAD. The only thing I didn’t add was ExLax! I put it in a clear plastic bottle and carry it with me everywhere during the fast.

Not eating was hard, but the toughest thing was water! I noticed my hesitancy to drink the water. It looked bad, smelled bad and tasted bad. I’d pick up my water and immediately think: ‘Am I THAT thirsty?’  Often I’d say to myself: “Nah.” And put it down. I became somewhat dehydrated with the loss of energy and occasional confusion. I would force myself to drink, to drink water as if it were medicine

It drove my thoughts back to those whom we want to help; those without clean water. Imagine drinking because it is medicine, not because it quenches your thirst. Imagine working all day digging potatoes or watching sheep and not enjoy drinking anything, not even water. I simply can’t imagine that!

It is always a reminder. It is always a drive for me. As EIA’s tag line says: “Clean Water Shouldn’t Be A Luxury!”

Every time I fast and I drink my little bottle of foul-tasting, foul-looking water, I learn something. My understanding and my empathy grows towards those who drink unsafe brown water, not for 36 hours, but every day. And I grow closer to God, experiencing, in a small way, the suffering He experiences everyday through His presence in those who are desperately poor.

Rev. David Stephenson, Founder, Engineers in Action

Below are some scriptures and thoughts by Mother Teresa of Calcutta

“The poor and needy search for water, but there is none;” (Isa 41:17-20)

Isaiah 41:17 – -20

“The poor and needy search for water,
but there is none;
their tongues are parched with thirst.
But I the LORD will answer them;
I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them.
18 I will make rivers flow on barren heights,
and springs within the valleys.
I will turn the desert into pools of water,
and the parched ground into springs.
19 I will put in the desert
the cedar and the acacia, the myrtle and the olive.
I will set pines in the wasteland,
the fir and the cypress together,
20 so that people may see and know,
may consider and understand,
that the hand of the LORD has done this,
that the Holy One of Israel has created it.


The poor and needy search for water,

but there is none;

their tongues are parched with thirst. (Isa. 41:17)

Words from the Saints: A prayer written by Mother Teresa of Calcutta:

“Make us, Lord, worthy to serve our brothers and sisters who are scattered all over the world, who live and die alone and poor. Give them today, using our hands, their daily bread. And using our love, give them peace and happiness. Amen.”

Reflect and Pray:

During your fast, whenever your thoughts turn to what you are going to eat and drink when you ‘break-fast’; think about someone you know in Bolivia. It may be someone who worked beside and out-worked you at 12,000’ during your time in Bolivia. Perhaps you know their name. Maybe it is just someone you saw when you were there; a child who was playing with their friends. Think about that specific person, and the fact that they “fast” from clean water every day. Think: “Clean Water Shouldn’t be a Luxury”. And pray for that person. Thank God that you have had this opportunity to be in solidarity with that person, if only for 36 hours. And thank God for the opportunity God has given you to help that person by fasting, be fund-raising and by going to Bolivia