Friday, October 15, 2010

Blog Action Day: Water

Today is Blog Action Day 2010, a day when bloggers all over the world unite to blog about one important issue. This year the agreed upon topic is water. It's something most of us in developed nations take for granted and yet did you know that nearly a BILLION people don't have access to clean water? That is utterly astounding.

Watch this very short video for another sobering statistic:



Did you catch that? 42,000 people die each week as a result of unsafe water.  Here are some more facts about water from the Blog Action Day website:

5 Facts About Water:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. The average American uses 159 gallons of water every day – more than 15 times thhe 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.
If you'd like to learn more about water related issues, the following information and links are provided via Blog Action Day:

The problem of scarce clean water:
Nearly 1 billion people lack access to clean water, which causes a litany of struggles, diseases and even death.
  • 40 Billion Hours: African women walk over 40 billion hours each year carrying cisterns weighing up to 18 kilograms to gather water, which is usually still not safe to drink. More Info »
  • 38,000 Children a Week: Every week, nearly 38,000 children under the age of 5 die from unsafe drinking water and unhygienic living conditions. More Info »
  • Wars Over Water: Many scholars attribute the conflict in Darfur at least in part to lack of access to water. A report commissioned by the UN found that in the 21st century, water scarcity will become one of the leading causes of conflict in Africa. More Info »
  • A Human Right: In July, to address the water crisis, the United Nations declared access to clean water and sanitation a human right over. But we are far from implementing solutions to secure basic access to safe drinking water. More Info »
Water over-consumption in industrialized countries:
While the developing world faces a water crisis, those in industrialized countries consume far more than their fair share.
  • Food Footprint: It takes 24 liters of water to produce one hamburger. That means it would take over 19.9 billion liters of water to make just one hamburger for every person in Europe. More Info»
  • Technology Footprint: The shiny new iPhone in your pocket requires half a liter of water to charge. That may not seem like much, but with over 80 million active iPhones in the world, that's 40 million liters to charge those alone. More Info »
  • Fashion Footprint: That cotton t-shirt you're wearing right now took 1,514 liters of water to produce, and your jeans required an extra 6,813 liters. More Info »
  • Bottled Water Footprint: The US, Mexico and China lead the world in bottled water consumption, with people in the US drinking an average of 200 bottles of water per person each year. Over 17 million barrels of oil are needed to manufacture those water bottles, 86 percent of which will never be recycled. More Info »
Water and the environment:
The disregard for water resources in industrialized countries impacts more than humans – it causes environmental devastation.
  • Waste Overflow: Every day, 2 million tons of human waste are disposed of in water sources. This not only negatively impacts the environment but also harms the health of surrounding communities. More Info »
  • Polluted Oceans: Death and disease caused by polluted coastal waters costs the global economy $12.8 billion a year. More Info »
  • Uninhabitable Rivers: Today, 40% of America's rivers and 46% of America's lakes are too polluted for fishing, swimming, or aquatic life. More Info »
Water solutions:
The good news is that there are great organizations working on solutions and new tools that empower people to do their part to address the water crisis.
  • Building Wells: Organizations like Water.org and charity: water are leading the charge in bringing fresh water to communities in the developing world.
  • Technology for Good: Do you want to measure how much water it took to make your favorite foods? There's an app for that. More Info »
  • Conservation Starts at Home: The average person uses 465 liters of water per day. Find out how much you use and challenge your readers to do that same. More Info »
  • Keeping Rivers Clean: We can all take small steps to help keep pollution out of our rivers and streams, like correctly disposing of household wastes. More Info »
  • Drop the Bottle: Communities around the world are taking steps to reduce water bottle waste by eliminating bottled water.More Info»
It's such a huge issue that it's tempting to think we as individuals can't do anything about it.  But that's not true.  Small, individual actions combined with the small, individual actions of others can make a difference. I urge you to consider at least one change you can make and then do it.  Are you still drinking bottled water?  Buy a couple of reusable bottles and switch to tap water for one month.  See?  That wasn't so hard.  Now just keep it up.  And what about those hamburgers that take 24 liters of water to produce?  What if you gave up a few meat-based meals per month?  Our family is now eating a vegetarian diet (you can read why here) and we've discovered some incredibly tasty meat-free recipes that will remain on our menu even when/if we return to eating meat at some point.  Bonus?  Both of these suggestions will save you money.  It's a win-win.

Personally, I was surprised to learn that charging my iPhone uses 1/2 a liter of water to charge.  My daughter who blogs at Retro Housewife Goes Green has a solar powered iPhone charger.  Guess what I'm adding to my Christmas wishlist? 

So, please give careful consideration to this vital issue, learn more about it and then do something.  Anything.  Your efforts count.

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