Life on Earth began with water and still depends on it to this day. It is an essential part of human life. We evolved from beings that were formed in water. We need water to live. Our bodies are about 60% water. We enjoy swimming in it, bathing in it, drinking it, splashing in it, and we greatly enjoy looking at it. Think about how many people you know that own fish tanks or fountains for relaxation. When we see it in beautiful Caribbean Oceans or in raging waterfalls we are amazed. When it comes out of our faucets it goes unnoticed.
All of us have the fortune of being in a city (and neighborhood) where water is readily available- we simply have to turn the faucet. It so easily available, perhaps, that we have forgotten how important it really is. Living a life where summer is filled with water sports and swimming pools, it might be hard to imagine having to walk miles to get it. The “African Well Fund” is a charity that helps people in Africa have access to clean water. Their challenge, “10 Miles in Her Shoes”, helps us better understand the issue. Their website explains, “Everyday in Africa, many people, particularly women, have to walk for miles to get water. The chore of fetching water is no small task, it involves walking sometimes up to 10 miles to the nearest water source, and carrying home the heavy containers filled with the day’s supply of water. This often takes up a big part of a woman’s day, and even then the water source is not always a safe one. It might be scooped from a dirty pool; unclean and containing parasites or dangerous bacteria” (www.africanwellfund.org).
Why should we care about the people in Africa? Well, if empathy and solidarity are not reasons enough, we should care because this doesn’t affect just the people in Africa. About 17% of our planet’s population (that means more than 11 million people!) does not have access to clean drinking water. Many of these people are Mexicans. In fact, as you may know, a vast majority of tap water in Mexico is not safe to drink. The water on our planet is all connected. Earth is often called “The Blue Planet” because nearly 3/4 of it is made up of water. However, 97.4% of that water is salt water, and only 2.5% is fresh water. Out of that 2.5%, about 70% of that is locked up in ice sheets and glaciers. This means that only 0.75% of Earth’s water is potable.
As you all know water has a cycle. It evaporates, condenses, and returns to the sources it came from, unblemished. Right? Wrong. This may have been true years ago, but as humankind has polluted more and more water sources we have begun to experience terrifying phenomena, such as acid rain (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acid_rain). In the year 2000, the World Commission on Water predicted that the increase in water use due to rising population will “impose intolerable stresses on the environment, leading not only to a loss of biodiversity, but also to a vicious cycle in which the stresses on the ecosystem [will] no longer provide the services [necessary] for plants and people1” . Our supply of good water is disappearing at an alarming rate.
So what can we do? How can we help?
If we do not change our habits, it is only a matter of time before we run out of water- and that is a terrifying thought. Some simple effortless changes in our routine can help prevent this from happening.
-Do not leave water running while you are brushing your teeth, shaving, or any other activity.
-When washing dishes by hand, don’t let the water run when rinsing. Fill one sink with wash water and the other with rinse water.
-Set a load of laundry only when it is a full one.
-Check often for leaks and immediately repair one if found. Monitor your water bill, this may help you discover a leak.
-Change your shower heads to low-flow ones. This can save up to 750 gallons per month!
-Wash your fruits and vegetables in a pan. Re-use the left over water to water your plants.
-If you have a fish tank, remember when you clean it that the “dirty” water is actually nutrient-rich. Use it to water your plants.
–DO NOT FLUSH TRASH. This is very important. Your tissues and cotton swabs can go in the trash. You do not need to flush them. Each flush uses about 1.5 gallons (5.7 liters) of water.
-Ladies, in the shower, turn off the water while you wash your hair and/or shave. This saves more than 200 gallons a month!
-Share water-conservation tips with friends and family.
There are some of us that already practice all the water-saving ideas I just mentioned. So, what else can we do? For those willing to go a step further in their total commitment to water conservation, here’s an idea: shift towards a plant-based diet.
Diet? You might ask, “What does diet have to do with water?”. The answer is everything. According to the Water Education Foundation, the amount of water required to produce 1 pound of California beef is 2,464 gallons2. When you compare it against the 23 gallons of water it takes to produce 1 pound of lettuce, the answer is apparent.
If you take a seven-minute long shower every single day, the amount of water you use for showers in one year (365 days) would be approximately the amount of water it took to produce one pound of beef.
There are many other reasons why consuming meat is not good for our planet. Watch this short video to get informed:
Donate your time and money to organizations that advocate for water conservation. Get involved. A great non-profit organization that operates in San Diego is “I Love a Clean San Diego”. Access their website at www.ilacsd.org to get current information on events you can participate in!
Remember, the future of this planet and of humankind is everyone’s responsibility. We need to take this responsibility seriously, and start doing everything we can to ensure that our Blue Planet and every life form on it not only lives on, but thrives.
I think this information might be enough to keep your brains churning for now, but I’ll be sure to elaborate on this topic in days to come.
1. “A Water Secure World: Vision for Water, Life, and the Environment” reported in Mittelstaedt, Martin, “World Water Use to Soar to Crisis Levels, Study Says”, The Globe and Mail, March 14, 2000.
2. “Water Inputs in California Food Production”, Water Education Foundation, Sacramento, CA.