Just Around the River Bend

I’m from Flint, MI.  Unless you’ve been at Walt Disney World, immersed in a world of fantasy for the last month, you know that the water in my hometown has not been safe for consumption for well over a year, since the water source was changed from Lake Huron to the Flint River and back.  My family and I live outside city limits, so our daily routine has not been interrupted much.  During the day, however, we are in the city, for daycare, school and work.  The youngest members of our family have been drinking bottled water at day care for quite some time, since the water fountains have been disconnected.  They use hand sanitizer instead of the sinks to clean their hands.  Wet wipes are provided to clean paint off their little fingers.  Bottled water is being used to prepare, serve and even clean up after lunch.  This is all done to protect the children from being poisoned by lead.   The details why/how this has happened is not the point of this article.  If you want that information, Google will return over 18 million results if you search for “Flint Water Crisis.”  (I just did the search myself and learned that the Democratic Party Presidential Debate will be held here next month.  I’m completely unphased by all the celebrity attention, but I’m kinda geekin’ out about the debate coming to town.  Don’t tell anyone that.)

IMG_1573As I said before being sidetracked, the water situation isn’t the point of this post.  This is a Disney-related website, so I kind of need to get back to happy.  In a couple weeks, I’ll be at the parks during Princess Half Marathon weekend.  For those few days, I won’t have to worry whether or not  I should wash my hands in a public restroom sink or if it is safe to drink from a water fountain.  I’ll happily order a glass of water at California Grill (yes, I finally got a reservation) and not be concerned if it came out of the tap.  Thoughts of a “carefree” life for a few days led me to wonder about the water supply at Walt Disney World, how it’s treated, where it comes from and if conservation efforts have changed since the last time I tackled the subject.

Drinking Water
The water in the fountains at Disney World is not that great.  I hear it tastes pretty bad all over Florida.  Water is locally sourced, treated and piped into the resort by the Reedy Creek Improvement District.  To save money ($3 for bottled water in the parks), I bring a Brita water bottle with a filter, fill it at a water fountain, and add a cup of free ice from a nearby quick service restaurant.  This also makes swampy tasting water much more palatable.  In most cases, bottled water is used at restaurants.  If you want to know, feel free to ask any cast member the source of your glass of water.

IMG_1696Conservation Efforts
Though Florida is surrounded by water, it actually has a tremendous problem with fresh water supply.  Because of this, the state is a leader in water reuse programs.  Where does the water from all the showers, laundry, hand washing and cooking go?  Reedy Creek Improvement District has a waste water treatment plant that processes waste water and uses it as a reclaimed source to water the landscape, keep streets clean, and to flush toilets.  I’ve heard that over 6 million gallons per day is repurposed.  That is amazing!

IMG_0371Natural and Man Made Waterways
Bay Lake and Seven Seas Lagoon are amazing bodies of water, but there had to be a lot of work to make them both appear “naturally beautiful.” Bay Lake was full of weeds and algae, making it nearly impossible for boats to pass.  Seven Seas Lagoon was completely man made.  The earth excavated was used to raise the ground at the Magic Kingdom 14 feet in order to build the utilidors. There were miles of canals and levees built.  When the parks opened in 1971, the Seven Seas Lagoon featured a wave machine that created waves high enough to surf, but it was disabled shortly after due to the erosion it caused on the beach areas near the Polynesian.  When I spotted a real alligator at the Magic Kingdom last year, I learned from cast members that all of the waterways around the Magic Kingdom are connected, either man made or natural connections as a way to keep wildlife moving around property.  I could go on and on about what I’ve learned regarding the water ways on property.  It is absolutely fascinating, if you’re interested in that sort of thing.

So what’s just around the river bend for Flint?  That remains to be seen.  Sometimes the right path is not always the easiest, and there is a long road ahead for Flint residents.  We sure are grateful for the many donations of bottled water, but my hope is that my friends and family do not have to live like this much longer.  Since I can’t take the entire city with me to Disney World for a little relief, I am comforted in the fact that I know the “water is always changing, always flowing.” This is just another page in Flint’s eventful history book that will make its residents even more resilient. Flint Strong!


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