With all the protests in the world, fighting for a healthy supply of life-giving water sounds like a good cause.

This past Mother's Day, my wife and mother of my three children abandoned me for the Million Mom March. My two daughters accompanied their mother to the march. My older daughter let it be known this was a girls' thing and fathers weren't invited. I got the message.

As I sat at home that Mother's Day, I started to ponder this idea of million people marches. A thought entered my brain that we need a Million Plumber March. Of course I quickly dispelled this thought when I realized we don't have a million plumbers in this country. Heck, if we added the plumbers, the plumbing suppliers, the plumbing engineers, and the plumbing manufacturers, there might barely be one million people.

I ran the idea past my beloved wife, Judie, when she returned home. Her first response was that I was mocking her. I assured her I was not. Then she asked, "What are you going to march for? Higher wages, more respect, the stop of butt crack jokes in Hollywood?"

I admitted all of these were noble causes to march for, but I had a better one . . .

"Water?" she commented. "What are you going to march about regarding water?"

There is one essential item you cannot live without: It's water. If you stop eating food, you'll live for about two months. If you stop drinking water, you'll be dead in a week.

And who has been responsible for the water of the world? The plumbers! We have a modern civilization because the plumbing industry has protected the water supply. All the medical attention in the world cannot do what the plumbers have done for centuries. The medical profession finally has admitted it is the cleanliness of our water supply and our waste sanitation that has eliminated the major outbreaks of disease in the world.

You probably are asking, "Why march for water?"

I am mad as hell and can't take it anymore! For the past 25 years, we have been under constant attack, and we haven't even realized it.

You may be wondering what kind of attack have we been subjected to. Just stop and think. What is the fastest growing beverage on the market in the past five years? The answer is very easy - it's bottled water. That's right. It's not Coke or Pepsi, or Snapple or Fruitopia. It's bottled water. Percentagewise, bottled water has seen the greatest increase in sales.

Mass Exploitation

I don't know about you, but I remember when water was free. We would get it out of the drinking fountain that the plumbing codes required us to install. Remember when it used to cost a quarter to use a water closet. The drinking fountains, however, never had a coin slot. We managed to get the pay toilets banned. Now we see the merchants removing the drinking fountains and charging a buck for a little bottle of water.

Remember this summer when the price of gasoline started going goofy? I received an e-mail from a friend who listed what the price of a gallon of various substances cost. At the low end was gasoline, believe it or not. The last item on the list was a particular brand of bottled water that cost $32 per gallon. If you bought this brand in the little bottles to add up to a gallon, it cost $32. Now that's ridiculous!

The federal government spends millions investigating the price of gasoline when it goes up in price, but it never mentions investigating water that costs $32 a gallon.

I was at a recent fundraising event in our town and spoke to a friend who was selling the drinks. It was a hot summer day, and the drink stand was going wild. Knowing that I was in the plumbing profession, he commented that the best thing that ever happened was this bottled water. When they sell the soda for a dollar, they make about 50 cents a can. But when they sell the bottled water, they were making about 95 cents a bottle. When I asked how, he said, "Heck, the bottles cost about 3 cents and they just fill them with water at the local bottling plant and slap a label on the bottle."

The amazing thing is the American public is putting up with this stupidity. And the reason it does is it has been manipulated for the past 25 years by the nonplumbing forces of this country - all of the self-proclaimed do-gooders who have attacked us.

What has been their means of attack? Think of the manipulation to make the public think the water coming out of the faucet is not good enough to drink. A large percentage of the population actually believes the water from its faucet is for everything except drinking and that drinking water comes out of a bottle. Our plumbing forefathers must be rolling in their graves.

Denying The Facts

A Chicago radio station did a survey on the various qualities of water. They checked city water, which comes from Lake Michigan, and every major brand of bottled water on the market. The results were fantastic. The cleanest water, by a long shot, was Chicago water from Lake Michigan. Some of the more expensive bottled waters would not even meet the potable water standards for public utilities, published by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The total dissolved solids (TDS) were off the charts for some bottled waters.

I thought this study should have turned a few heads. It seemed to be largely ignored, however, and bottled water sales continue to climb.

This all began with EPA. It started the attack on the potable water in this country. To assist in its fights, it called on every fringe environmental group in the country. The funny thing about this entire battle is that the water utilities and the plumbing industry said, "Hey, we'll work with you guys. We take pride in the fact that the United States provides the best water in the world." At the same time the important groups were working with the EPA, the EPA was stirring up the public with press releases to make people believe their water was unsafe.

Thanks to the plumbing industry and the public water utilities, no one can say in good conscience that the water in this country has ever been unhealthy. The definition for the minimum quality of water has changed drastically by the U.S. EPA. Every time the government redefines the water quality levels, the water utilities and plumbing industry respond quickly.

Let me give you an example that the whackos tend to use: lead. The acceptable concentration of lead in potable water is 15 parts per billion. If you go back 25 years, that level of lead in the drinking water was considered nondetectable. We didn't have the equipment to measure to this concentration with any degree of accuracy.

When the EPA established this low number, it was not based on amounts causing brain damage in an infant child, as some would like you to believe. It actually was based on a lifetime exposure (about 70 years of consumption). Yet, because of the propaganda that has been published, many people believe that water with 20 parts per billion will cause significant, irreversible harm. That just isn't true.

Don't get me wrong, the plumbing industry responded to the 15 parts per billion, hence the water supply has virtually no lead. Thus, there is no problem with lead in the public water supply.

I also recognize that some well systems provide very poor quality water. Likewise, some public water supplies don't have the greatest taste. However, the response is not overpriced bottled water. The answer is the plumbing contractor. We have the ability to soften, filter and run water through reverse osmosis and decontaminate the water or chlorinate or unchlorinate the water. This is all plumbing.

It is time to take a stand. We need to reclaim our rights as the leading experts in the field of water. This month, the NEX show is in Chicago and the ASPE show is in Nashville. That is a good time to talk up the Million Plumber March.

And if the people still want bottled water, let's make the quality requirements the same as for the potable water supply.

Remember, all the quality requirements in the world wouldn't do a bit of good if not for the dedication we have shown toward backflow protection in our plumbing systems.