In the last blog post I noted that we should love the environment because it provides fresh water for us to drink. Yet that is a very North American-centric way of thinking. We are truly blessed in this country to have an abundance of clean water (at least an abundance by the rest of the world’s standard, although it is not distributed equally throughout the country). I wrote from my naïve point of view, so I want to add a little more clarity to the subject, especially since today, March 22nd is World Water Day.
I just read a wonderfully poignant article in the latest issue of National Geographic magazine by Tina Rosenberg, called The Burden of Thirst. It follows one woman’s trek up and down a mountain in Africa, three or more times a day, carrying a 50-pound jug of water on her back. She can spend up to 8 hours of her day getting water for her family. And it’s not even clean water. It is filled with sediment and the feces of donkeys and cattle. According to the article, “nearly 900 million people in the world have no access to clean water, and 2.5 billion people have no safe way to dispose of human waste—many defecate in open fields or near the same rivers they drink from. Dirty water and lack of a toilet and proper hygiene kill 3.3 million people around the world annually, most of them children under age five.”
Makes you really appreciate what you have, doesn’t it?! This same woman says she doesn’t wash her clothing because they barely have enough water to even drink. She bathes once a year. Yet here in the US we shower daily, wash our clothes whenever we want to and pour millions of gallons a day on golf courses and other landscapes (even in desert areas). This post is not to make you feel guilty but if you pause for just a second and think how we could take clean water a little less for granted than we do, that is a small step in the right direction. If you take a moment to donate to a charity that is building sanitary toilets and drinking water wells in developing nations, then you are helping to provide a better life for people. No one should have to spend 8 hours of their day getting water, especially when the technology exists to help them TODAY.
As I have said, conservation is about saving the things we love. I love clean water. It is an essential ingredient in beer, it keeps my vegetable garden alive, and it doesn’t harbor disease causing micro-organisms. The US is not immune to water-related problems – think of the drought that plagued the Atlanta area in recent years, the clash between agriculture and the Endangered Species Act in southern California, and leaking infrastructure country-wide that loses millions of gallons of water a year, and we have our hands full. But as such a wealthy country (wealthy in both per capita incomes and clean water-wealthy) we can do much to make future World Water Days better for all.