OPINIONWe take a lot of things for granted in life. Our car will always start, our dogs will always love us and the water we drink will always be clean. In all those assumptions nothing is guaranteed.

Like the adoration of our pets or the dependability of our vehicles, the quality of our water critically depends on the care we take for protecting the things we love and depend on the most. When we turn on the faucet to fill a glass of water or sip from a drinking fountain, we have a reasonable expectation the water is safe. That blind trust is mostly due to the protections we have in place and the oversight of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

Wis. Gov. Tony Evers declared the year of 2019 as the “year of clean drinking water” in his State of the State speech Jan. 22. I can’t agree more with the governor. That’s why I am writing about how water is life, prosperity and our most precious resource.

Water is life. According to H.H. Mitchell, “Journal of Biological Chemistry 158,” the U.S. Geological Survey cited that “the brain and heart are composed of 73 percent water, and the lungs are about 83 percent water. The skin contains 64 percent water; muscles and kidneys are 79 percent, and even the bones are watery – 31 percent.” Overall our body consists of 60 percent water. It’s recommended we drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day to stay hydrated.

Water is critically important to our biology. Unfortunately it’s much easier to contaminate our drinking water than it is to clean it. Each time our drinking water becomes polluted we become less concerned about polluting it in the future. That’s because we troubleshoot the problem and then adjust our expectations. It’s like the boiling-frog theory. If a frog jumps into a pot of boiling water it jumps out immediately, but if the frog is in the pot while the water slowly boils it remains.

There are many countries that did not prioritize clean accessible water until it was too late. Right here in North America, nearly three-quarters of people in Mexico drink packaged water. They consume more bottled water per capita than anywhere else in the world.

Wisconsin is not immune to the emergency of contaminated drinking water. In Kewaunee County samples from a recent study showed 60 percent of private well systems were contaminated with excess nitrates from human and animal waste. Even with protections in place, we cannot take clean water for granted. Going forward we must work with professionals to enforce fact-based scientific approaches to protect the public’s drinking water.

Water is life. We must count on our elected leaders in Madison and our best scientists to protect our fragile drinking-water supply. When we start our cars during the next polar vortex, come home to our pets after a long day at work or take a cool drink of life-giving water – those are all reminders we must give the greatest care to the things we depend on the most.

Wis. Sen. Jeff Smith of Brunswick represents District 31 as a member of the Democratic Party.