The capacity of human beings to royally screw up almost everything we touch notwithstanding, this seems like a particularly undesirable mistake to make - but then, sh*t happens, as we all know. I think. I say 'I think' because it seems that a significant portion of the affected population has responded to this news by - perhaps predictably - dashing out to water sellers (which as we all know is only going to be Wal Mart because they will have moved onto the outskirts of town a few years ago and efficiently reduced the vibrant town centre to something resembling a vacant movie studio set) and panic-buying all the bottled water that they can fit into their vee-hickles.
I don't particularly blame them for doing so. Actually, yes I do. Well, no not really... I suppose my frustration with this kind of knee-jerk response is really that it seems to happen so freely. I should declare a conflict of interest at this point: I am biased against knee-jerks ever since, as a child, I jerked my knee and almost knocked three of my own teeth out (I was more flexible then). Knee-jerks suck; there, I said it. Now you know where I stand (on one leg). However, these kinds of panic responses do seem to be the usual reaction to any news which indicates a cessation of any type of service. It doesn't matter what the service is (although I grant you; water is pretty damned important), and it doesn't matter what the threat may be: people seem to panic very easily these days.
It seems to me that our modern society has evolved (and continues to evolve) into something less and less competent. As groups, humans in North America in particular seem to have developed an enormously entrenched entitlement to an uninterrupted service of water, power, sewer and gas. Any hiccups in those services seems to immediately incite terror of a post apocalyptic world (Mad Max has a lot to answer for) descending upon us within hours, and thereby generate waves of mass buying/looting of things such as water and what passes for food in our supermarkets these days.
I wonder if this means that we are outgrowing our planet already. When alternative solutions are not immediately and readily available (i.e. no further away than the local mall or convenience store), it seems like North American society teeters on the brink of total meltdown. This is one end of the spectrum, the other being the gun-totin', rootin-tootin' redneck brigade in their raised-suspension POS trucks and their missile silo bunkers. Those guys 'n gals (note that I am being very non gender-specific there; that should get me an internet award of some kind) are very much in a tiny minority - scary, but tiny. The majority seems to be the people who live in food deserts (cities) who rely 100% upon stores for all their food, and basically 100% on someone or something else to provide for all their usual daily needs. I'm talking here about WHERE people obtain their services.
It's not their fault, it's just how society seems to have developed - sure, big cities are convenient places to live while everything works, but it doesn't take much to go wrong (several days without power, for example, as has happened very recently) for a city to start feeling like a prison. Our own rules (which when condensed down to their essence tend to simply mean: "Be like us or go away.") make it very hard for people to establish alternative lifestyles in such communities - take something as basic as heating, for example. In a typical city block (and definitely in a high-rise) there is no question of anyone being allowed to use coal or wood to heat their home. Consequently, when the power goes out, everyone gets very cold in winter.
We have engineered ourselves into being dependent upon "The Company", whether it is "The Power Company", "The Water Company" or whatever. Consequently, when the brown smelly sticky stuff hits the rapidly revolving blades of an air-moving device, we have crises, and significant numbers of members of our societies react with panic. Panic is bad for us as individuals and as societies or communities. People make poor decisions; many make selfish decisions which almost always lead to conflict, loss of resources and frequently violence as the law of the jungle begins to kick in. Panic is a bit poo, really.
I am not 'Survivorman' ( and I don't want to be; mostly because that particular TV character doesn't really 'survive' - instead he usually starves himself for a week while going for a long walk, building a lean-to shelter and occasionally consuming something unpleasant for our edification); I'm no zealot and I don't have a particularly high degree of skill in terms of being able to fashion a house out of some tree bark and a dead possum, but I am, I think, a person with perspective. We heat our house with a combination of mains supplied gas and wood. If the gas pipes stop working, we won't freeze, and we have enough wood stockpiled to keep us warm for months. We have a week's supply of drinking water put by and I know where I can find clean spring water if necessary. We have a boat. We grow some of our own food and try each year to increase the ratio of grown to store-bought. We preserve much of what we grow, and there is a larder that will keep us fed in the event of a natural disaster.
Redneck survivalism? Nope. We live in an active earthquake zone on the pacific rim; the possibility of a major earthquake (although not actually LIKELY) is very real, and if it hits we might be off the grid for a very long time before civilization creeps back in. We have just taken some sensible precautions without turning into The Swiss Family Robinson. I hope that we never have to face the earthquake scenario (I really don't want to have to be in that situation!) but just a low level of emergency preparedness has another effect: we don't panic when the lights go out. The lights do go out sometimes, mostly because the power lines have all been cunningly laid above ground on poles very near to trees, so that every time the breeze picks up, somewhere a branch comes down onto the lines and a part of our town goes dark.
The last time it happened we had a neighbour knock at our door in something of an agitated state because their daughter and ours were both at a sports event at school - a whole three minute drive away. That person seemed to have no emotional contingency resources, and that seems to be a more and more common feature of modern living. Everything is just dandy until it isn't; at which point we go immediately from dandy to dangerous. Panic takes over and we buy all the water and twinkies we can lay our hands on. Wal Mart makes bumper profits.
Unless society in North America (and I think the problem is worse on this side of the Atlantic/Pacific) gets to grips with the notion of not being utterly dependent upon (and almost by natural progression; feeling ENTITLED to) uninterrupted supplies of everything vital, the fall will be harder and further as the years progress. The freight train of modern life cannot hope to stay on the rails without mishaps, and having an awareness of that and the basic skills of living without being spoon-fed all that we need, will go some way to alleviating the effects of events outside of ours or 'The Company's' control.
Have a think about what might be most likely to go wrong (not alien invasion, not super-volcanic eruption, not seven-mile-wide asteroid); think power cuts, disruptions to utilities. THINK - and then prepare; prevent yourself from having to be one of those people wrestling as if their life depended upon it, for the last box of crackers on the convenience store shelf.