We would be nothing without water. Our bodies are composed mainly with water. We drink, bathe, and use water constantly. It’s a basic necessity. Something basic that we probably don’t think too much about on a daily basis beyond getting those eight glasses each day for optimal health.
Except for far too many people in this world, even in the United States, access to clean drinking water isn’t as convenient as stepping up to the sink. Safe drinking water is a problem for nearly 1 billion people. Many of these people are women and young girls in the developing world who must walk an average of 6 kilometers each day to collect often contaminated water for their families. And that number doesn’t take into account the 2.3 billion people who live without access to proper sanitation.
If you want another way of looking at those numbers, here’s the lowdown: 1 in 9 people lack access to safe water. 1 in 3 people lack access to a toilet. More people have a mobile phone than a toilet. So where do our priorities lie, especially those of us who are fortunate enough to never even think too much about the quality of our water?
Access to water goes beyond just what we see and use in our day-to-day lives. The global water crisis drips into almost every issue our planet is facing right now, including climate change, human rights, education, hunger, economic stability, and more. Water is at the core of sustainable development and is critical for socio-economic development, healthy ecosystems and for human survival itself. It is vital for reducing the global burden of disease and improving the health, welfare and productivity of populations.
Water is also at the heart of adaptation to climate change, serving as the crucial link between the climate system, human society and the environment. Without proper water governance, there is likely to be increased competition for water between sectors and an escalation of water crises of various kinds, triggering emergencies in a range of water-dependent sectors. The ones who have the greatest access to water are the select few who are already on top. Those stuck in the cycle of poverty will remain without water and sanitation, limiting everyone’s ability to make progress and improve our world.
Not to mention the individual effects unsafe water has on people, with women and children being the most vulnerable since they’re the ones having to search out for sources of water for as long as six hours. This time takes away from women’s and children’s opportunities to simply take care of their families or go to school and work.
Globally, waterborne illnesses are a leading cause of death for children under five, killing nearly one thousand children every day. Poor water sanitation and a lack of safe drinking water take a greater human toll than war, terrorism and weapons of mass destruction combined.
What’s making the water so dangerous to consume? Well, synthetic pollutants (our own garbage) and natural pollutants (including human/animal excrement and rainwater runoff with chemical-laden fertilizers) all end up in fresh-water sources. The developed world has become fairly efficient in taking care of this (I say fairly because places like Flint, Michigan, are still struggling), but the developing world is left vulnerable to whatever waste we produce. In developing countries, 70 percent of industrial wastes are dumped untreated into waters, polluting the usable water supply. We promote poorer countries to rapidly grow their economies and begin industrializing, but we don’t equip them with the proper resources to control the effects of industrialization.
So while I am so grateful that I don’t have to think twice about taking a shower, washing my face, and drinking water available to me right at home, my gratitude wants to extend beyond myself and the developed world. An attitude of gratitude not only pushes me to look at my own life, but it also pushes me to ensure every single person and living organism on this planet has the opportunity to this resource. It shouldn’t be a privilege; it should be a basic right.
What can we do then? Luckily, many world organizations like UNICEF, the World Wildlife Foundation, and WHO are all working toward reducing the clean water crisis. P&G collaborated with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to develop a technology that people can use in their home to purify water, improving the quality of household stored water and greatly reducing the risk of illness and death.
Water.org offers further approaches that go beyond providing water and building wells. Their programs focus on affordable financing that breaks the barrier between poverty and clean water. WaterCredit uses microfinancing to bring small, easily repayable loans to those who need access to affordable financing and resources to make household water and sanitation solutions a reality. This, accompanied by global engagement to start the conversation and encourage greater support for clean water, sheds light on this major issue and hopefully inspires citizens like you and me to do our part in promoting these organizations, using clean water wisely, and reducing the amount of pollution we produce.
Gratitude is the first step toward a better, more mindful world. From there, we can act.
What can you do today to appreciate your access to clean water and sanitation? Is that helping others to gain access and reduce the crisis?
Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie