World Water Day: put down those bottles!
For people who live in developed nations, water is often an afterthought. We’ve spent our whole lives soaking in water, and when something is as common as that you don’t often think about it. When you do think about, you have a tendency to make it much more complicated than it actually is. As a result we have the strange phenomenon of people who live in areas where clean, fresh water is available at an extremely small cost right out of pipes run directly into their homes who choose instead to pay a premium for bottled water that is almost always not any cleaner or better-tasting.
If that were the end of the story it would be bad enough, but when you also live in a world where some people have to struggle tirelessly just to get enough water to survive on a daily basis, the insanity of bottled water is underscored. That’s what makes World Water Day so important.
World Water Day: save water, save energy, save the world
In most developed countries, a water crisis is when you’re forbidden to water your lawn for a few weeks. In the less fortunate areas of the world, every day is a water crisis. Almost one billion people in the world have limited or no access to improved water sources (water that’s been filtered and treated). 2.5 billion people don’t have access to sanitation basics, like toilets. 3.4 billion people die each year from diseases stemming from this lack of sanitation and not having access to water. For many people living in these areas, the average travel distance to a clean water source is 3.7 miles. Most of these people do not have vehicles or pack animals, so this means walking that distance, filling jugs, and then carrying those jugs back home for cooking, drinking, and washing. The next time you feel the urge to spurn your tap because it’s ‘tap water’, consider what people around the globe go through every day just to survive.
Just as Earth Hour is set aside each year to highlight the growing energy crisis and educate people about ways to save power that don’t necessarily impact their comfort or lifestyle (like adding energy efficient appliances or a standby power switch), World Water Day is designed to bring attention to the persistent crisis of access to clean water and basic sanitation round the world. 2013 was designated the Year of International Water Cooperation in order to underscore the fact that water is the ultimate shared resource on this planet: The amount of water in the water cycle is finite, and as pollution, urban sprawl, and uneven distribution of clean water escalates the very natural system that produces fresh water is threatened. International cooperation is essential to evening the access to clean water around the world.
World Water Day: events and challenges
World Water Day is celebrated worldwide with a variety of conferences, events, and challenges to cities and nations. The organisations behind World Water Day (UNESCO in collaboration with UNECE and UNDESA) seek to use the high-profile event to publicise many of the ongoing projects in developing areas such as Africa and Southeast Asia to bring fresh water and basic sanitation to communities in desperate need of these resources.
At the same time, World Water Day seeks to inspire individuals to do what they can in the fight to share water resources more fairly and conserve water and use it more thoughtfully. This ranges from personal commitments to reduce your own water footprint through shorter showers, more water and energy efficient appliances, and gardening with plants that are both local to your climate and that require less water to spreading the word and educating your neighbours and peers about their own water usage and water footprint.
The first step is to stop thinking of the water bottle as a necessity or even as a reasonable use of resources. Instead, think of the water coming from your tap as a miracle, because you did not have to walk nearly four miles to get that water, and it will not make you ill when you drink it, and you have total control over how much of it you use – and how much of it you waste.