I recently heard a statistic about water and sanitation that shocked me deeply: more men, women and children become ill and die from dirty water than any other cause. Even if you consider all the nasty illnesses in the world and add up the casualties, more people still die from dirty water than all other illnesses – combined!
I just walked into my kitchen and poured myself a glass of water, a ritual I repeat a few times a day and without much thought. However, this time I paused and realized how often I take this clean, readily attainable water for granted. If I were to be more thankful of the many things I now automatically accept as normal parts of my life, I think I would definitely appreciate life more. This may lead to changes in habit, perhaps in how much I consume and in the way I make daily decisions that affect my life and those of my family and community.
I’ve often thought it would be good if I could send each of my four children off for a month to a third world country to get a sense of how other people live on much less than we do. I think it would wake them up to as how fortunate they are and would ease their sense of “entitlement.”
An esteemed colleague sent me a short Power Point presentation on water which I found quite sobering. It mentioned that 60% of my body is made up of water as well as 70% of my brain and 80% of my blood.
We can live up to a month without food but less than a week without water. Only 3% of the water on earth is potable and most of that is in the form of ice. Less than 1% of the good water is accessible to us and only 0.007% is available to drink.
The presentation had my attention and went on to say that a quarter of all the water which enters my house is used to flush toilets. Each flush uses 3 gallons of water. A single load of laundry uses 40 gallons and a ten minute shower uses 50 gallons. If I brush my teeth with the tap running, 4 gallons is used and if I don’t run the tap, merely .25 gallon instead.
Several years ago I met a water engineer who told me that some areas of the world, and more specifically the United States, are running out of water. He went on to say that conflict in the future won’t be about oil but rather water.
The L.A basin can sustain the water needs of about one million people. In the year 2020 it is estimated that 20 million will live in that basin.
It is estimated that millions of people live on an average of 3 gallons of water a day. The average American or Canadian uses 160 gallons of water each day.
Then the presentation began to echo the statistic I referred to at the beginning of this article. Over 25 million people are displaced each year by contaminated rivers. One in three people worldwide lack access to adequate sanitation. One in five have no clean drinking water readily available.
The United Nations has estimated that a child dies every 15 seconds because of water related diseases.
The presentation on water urges me to “give water a second thought.” It goes on to request that I “use less, save more and advocate always!”
My mental health will be stronger if I don’t take water or other aspects of my life for granted. We have it pretty good in this part of the world and many of our “problems” would fade away if we regularly reminded ourselves of just how good we have it.