The World Water Crisis – Raising Our Water Consciousness

In the U.S., most of us take good clean water for granted, compared to many far less fortunate people. Help ease the water crisis in developing countries just by donating a few dollars

In Fairfield IA, where I live, the city draws water from the Jordan Aquafer, and maintains a good sewer system which they are constantly upgrading. We pay for our water, but we can afford it, it’s clean, and it comes hot and cold out of taps in our house. An under-sink filter gets out the chlorine, any impurities, and the sulfur taste.

I was washing dishes the other day, and started thinking about all the ways I use water. Here’s what I did with water yesterday:

My husband and I each had a 5 minute shower, brushed our teeth twice, and flushed the toilet about a dozen times between us

It was a cleaning day, so I washed my car, washed the floors, did 3 large loads of laundry

I picked and washed 3 bunches of greens, cooked three meals and washed the dishes once by hand

We drank 1.5 gallons of water between us

I don’t know exactly how many gallons of water we used yesterday, but I’m sure it was close to 100.

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Not a typical day, water wise – usually no laundry or cleaning, but still, clearly we use a luxurious amount of water in our day-to-day lives. We have low flow faucets, showerheads and toilets, turn off the water while we brush, fix water leaks, don’t water our lawn or garden, never drink bottled water, eat a vegan diet, don’t own cell phones or buy much stuff, but we could do a lot more to conserve water. I know that.

The thought rarely crosses our minds that we could ever get sick from our water. Compared to people living where water is scarce and polluted, we are extremely fortunate.

Contrast our water situation with that of most people in the world! has a few sobering facts about water usage in the developing world, where much of the world’s human population lives.

  • The water and sanitation crisis claims more lives through disease than any war claims through guns.
  • On average, women in developing countries walk 3.7 miles a day to collect water.
  • When rain falls from the sky it’s free. To move it where families need it costs money or time.
  • We know how to bring people clean water and improved sanitation. We’re not waiting for a magic cure. And the solutions are simple and cost-effective. On average, every $1 US dollar invested in water & sanitation provides an economic return of $3-34 US dollars.
  • In just one day, women around the world spend more than 200 MILLION HOURS collecting water. This lost productivity is greater than the combined number of hours worked in a week by employees at Wal*Mart, United Parcel Service, McDonald’s, IBM, Target, and Kroger

It’s true that if we all conserved water better, didn’t eat meat, drink bottled water or buy a lot of manufactured goods, our own North American water future would be more secure, but it probably wouldn’t have much of an impact on the daily water realities of people in Africa, India and other places in water crisis. 

We have it in our power to improve the lives of those people dramatically, simply by donating a few dollars toward digging wells, or sanitizing the water that’s already available. Most of us will see that as a good thing to do, just on humanitarian principles.

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But some of us might wonder, “How can helping to improve water quality in Africa improve the quality of our lives in America?”

If you’re one of the “some”, I won’t waste your time explaining the laws of karma, the interconnectedness of all things, the golden rule, human rights, blah blah blah. But consider this:

Suppose lots of people in developing countries get wells in their villages and get on with living their lives instead of spending hours every day fetching a few gallons of bad water, then getting sick and dying? Suppose the adults could spend their time improving their lot in life, and were healthy enough to sustain those efforts, and the kids could go to school and get educated to do more useful things than carry water?

The economic condition of the people in that village and lots of other places would improve, right? Entrepreneurial Americans could surely turn that to their advantage in countless ways!

So whatever world view you embrace, it’s worth your while to help improve water quality in developing countries.

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