Water is precious to all human life. Sometimes we may not realise this when we are accustomed to it gushing out at the flick of a wrist, but in some places in the world, it is offered as a religious sacrifice (University of Bergen). While the world is indeed mostly covered with the stuff, drinking water is by comparison, rarer than you might expect. Water that is neither salted nor frozen makes up only 0.65% of the world’s water. This accounts for all groundwater and surface freshwater, whether it is clean or not, meaning that much less of even this amount is suitable for drinking (SPGE).
(created with data from SPGE)
As you probably already know, people in certain parts of the world do not have regular access to safe drinking water. What you may not know, however, is that the problem affects 748 million people, which is a little less than a tenth of the world’s population (One Drop). Of these 748 million, 450 million simply do not have enough water, and the little they do have is not necessarily safe for drinking (SPGE). As for the rest, they have plenty of unsafe water.
Unsafe water is of course, no small nuisance. Every day, about 9,000 adults and 6,000 children die of diseases they received from drinking untreated water (SPGE). In addition, amongst the living, some, often women, have to walk tremendous distances each day to bring water back to their homes. Such water walks can take them up to six hours, which greatly limits their opportunities for independence and economic advancements (One Drop). As such, it should come as no great surprise that countries’ quality of life indices correlate with their water accessibility indices, which are measured on a scale from -2 to 2. One can see this effect in the chart below, where each dot represents a country and its size alludes to its population:
(created with data from Numbeo)
The people with the most water difficulties tend to live in developing countries. Where money is scarce, water becomes scarce for several reasons. For one, if agriculture serves as an economic lifeline in a region, irrigation can compete with people for water (One Drop). More commonly, however, it is a lack of proper water sanitation that causes the most problems. Such lack is often caused a combination of the expensiveness of treatment systems with water pollution affecting the overall environment. Unsurprisingly, as one can see in the similarly constructed chart below, such water pollution has a sharp correlation with access to drinking water:
(created with data from Numbeo)
Ultimately, in face of this particular world problem, we are less than helpless. As Pembroke Hill’s Director of Leadership & Community Engagement Ms. Callie Duhig suggests, distance should not stop people from having an impact elsewhere on the globe. In one event she helped organize, for instance, students and other members of the community did a charity walk to experience the distance some go daily to fetch water. The proceeds of the event went to a project of the 501(c)(3) organization Charity Water to build wells to save people from having to make that walk. Another notable 501(c)(3) that my school community has supported is Water.org, which offers affordable loans to people to help them create their own wells sanitation infrastructure. If you wish to bring about better water security to those who need it most, one of the best things you can do right now is take a look at these reputable organizations’ websites to see how you might donate or in other ways help.
A more subtle way to help though is through water conservation. While it has a much less direct impact on those struggling to find drinking water, it is all the same senseless to waste good water, which furthermore costs money. As estimated by the water management agency SPGE, the average American uses about 300 litres a day, whereas the average European uses around 100-200 litres, and those facing scarcity get by on as little as 5-10 litres. You’ve probably already have heard of tips such as taking short showers and not leaving the faucet on; to conserve water is quite verily a matter of making those and other practices into habits. Other habits that you might consider adopting include a variety of matters. For one, you might consider flushing toilets, taking showers, and washing cars only when necessary and running dishwashers and clothes machines only with full loads. Furthermore, when it comes to water used for showers or for washing food, you can collect such water and reuse it to water plants, which you can furthermore do at night to avoid evaporation. One other measure is to change faucets and showerheads to more efficient versions, which combine more air with the water so as to decrease the amount of litres of water dissipated per second while still maintaining a steady stream (La France au Cap). Through all these measures, you can decrease your water bill and help conserve water in your local region. At the same time, however, this is far from the definite list of tricks and strategies. If you practice water conservation in a way not already mentioned, I encourage you to comment below what it is that you do so that our greater community can benefit from your knowledge.
Duhig, Callie. Interview 19 Apr. 2018.
Numbeo. Numbeo, 2018. Web API.
“Pénurie d’eau au Cap : les bonnes pratiques” La France au Cap. Consulat Général de France au Cap, 2018. Web.
“L’eau dans le monde” La Société Publique de Gestion d’Eau. SPGE, n.d.. Web.
“Religion and Water” Bergen Summer Research School. University of Bergen, n.d. Web.
“The Water Crisis. One Drop. One Drop, n.d.. Web.
Valo, Martine. “La crise de l’eau illustrée en 5 graphiques” Le Monde. Le Monde, 2015. Web.