This past weekend, my social networks and news feeds were filled with stories about the Salmon Festival in central Newfoundland.
They raved about The Eagles, paid kudos to The Tragically Hip, and highlighted all their favourite songs from the many musicians and groups on the stage. By all accounts, it was a musical extravaganza that lived up to its hype big-time.
But one thing emerged, and I found it disturbing. Water, many reported, was in short supply. Line-ups were long (as much as a half hour or more), and the prices were outrageous ($4 per bottle). There were reports of people fainting while waiting to reach the counter for their turn to purchase.
Then, the unthinkable: vendors ran out.
While there was all kinds of beer and other sorts of refreshments, there was no more water for a period of time. Don't forget: temperatures were soaring on the brilliantly sunny day, approaching 30 C, which had been predicted, so it shouldn't have been a surprise that there would be a demand for water.
What surprised me, and also upset me, were the reports that those who anticipated the heat and brought water in had it confiscated. Liquor, even soda, being taken makes sense as that's a profit generator. But water?
Not everyone wants to drink beer or soda, and on a hot day, you need water to avoid dehydration and all its associated complications. It must have been rage-inducing to be reminded that you should drink water to keep well hydrated while having to wait in line to buy the same.
It struck me that some bright light must have thought this would be another moneymaker. For heaven's sake, though, someone should have done the math: 30,000 people, a hot sunny day with record temps, and limited supplies and outlets means you have a formula for disaster.
You can do it differently. Local road races have water stations, and there are even people watching the athletes who offer water to all comers.
If you travel out of province, it becomes fairly obvious that other communities and businesses in North America have a different approach. They either sell water at affordable prices - I have bought a litre and a half for as little as $2 - or they make it available free through taps and fountains. Many sites, such as universities, have instituted a bottled water ban, to support local, accessible and safe water supplies.
It's not just North America. Most European cities also have widely available and prominently labelled water fountains where you can fill up a bottle as you go. Many zoos, nature and theme parks - like Disney, for example, where one cannot escape a ride without coming through a gift shop - have freely available water fountains everywhere.
Even airlines will ply you with free water and no one confiscates your water (unless you forget and try to carry it through the security screening vs. buying/filling a bottle after).
The good thing about this debacle is that it has started a discussion about people's right to water. Make no mistake: failing to appreciate the public health risk the lack of water creates for large scale summertime events will keep people away in the future.
We should be asking questions of the organizers of this event and others. Will they take note and realize that gouging customers who have already forked over a great deal of money is not a sustainable business model?
Martha Muzychka is a writer and consultant in St. John's. Water with lemon is her number one drink. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.