I grew up in Maine (which all of you know, most likely). I remember going out on rainy days and playing around dragging leaves out of the culvert, splashing in the puddles, and walking back to drink from “our” waterfall. My family has a cabin on a little lake that a water-bottling company gets their water from, and we were never afraid to drink from it, either. We had two wells at our house, and we were often at the ocean on Sabbath afternoons, where I would eat the seaweed (the kind with bubbles filled with little drops of salt water — you can only eat so many before you need a regular drink of water). I never really realized that there are places you can’t do any of those things until I left Maine. Suddenly I know people who wouldn’t even drink their tap water without running it through a Brita (yes, I do it too), much less drink from a LAKE!
This blog post is about water because today is Blog Action Day and this year’s topic is water. Here are the facts:
Unsafe drinking water and lack of sanitation kills more people every year than all forms of violence, including war. Unclean drinking water can incubate some pretty scary diseases, like E. coli, salmonella, cholera and hepatitis A. Given that bouquet of bacteria, it’s no surprise that water, or rather lack thereof, causes 42,000 deaths each week.
More people have access to a cell phone than to a toilet. Today, 2.5 billion people lack access to toilets. This means that sewage spills into rivers and streams, contaminating drinking water and causing disease.
Every day, women and children in Africa walk a combined total of 109 million hours to get water. They do this while carrying cisterns weighing around 40 pounds when filled in order to gather water that, in many cases, is still polluted. Aside from putting a great deal of strain on their bodies, walking such long distances keeps children out of school and women away from other endeavors that can help improve the quality of life in their communities.
It takes 6.3 gallons of water to produce just one hamburger. That 6.3 gallons covers everything from watering the wheat for the bun and providing water for the cow to cooking the patty and baking the bun. And that’s just one meal! It would take over 184 billion gallons of water to make just one hamburger for every person in the United States.
The average American uses 159 gallons of water every day – more than 15 times the average person in the developing world. From showering and washing our hands to watering our lawns and washing our cars, Americans use a lot of water. To put things into perspective, the average five-minute shower will use about 10 gallons of water. Now imagine using that same amount to bathe, wash your clothes, cook your meals and quench your thirst.
The worst part of these facts is that they are not necessarily resultant of war or other disasters; they’re just the way of life for many people. (I remember the water in Bangkok not being potable. We all (even the Thais) bought water and it was normal.) How much of the world’s water is polluted from acid rain, for example?
Water is pretty basic. Knowing that people are dying because they have to drink bad water, while I use it rather prodigally because we don’t have to pay for it makes me feel really guilty. It should make all of us feel guilty, at least enough to donate so others can get clean water.