Just like Earth Day and World Fair Trade Day, World Water Day is an excellent way to bring attention to very serious.  Days likes these draw awareness to serious issues such as water scarcity. They garnish a lot of press and attention, but what happens the day, month, or even year after? It is important to use these days to remind ourselves of real issues our world is facing together, yet we must take the lessons beyond just one day.

The theme for this year’s World Water Day is Food and Water. Water related issues are directly connected to food. In fact, most of the water used around the world is consumed via food production such as agriculture and animal husbandry. According to the World Water Day site, “Statistics say that each of us drinks from 2 to 4 litres of water every day…producing 1 kilo of beef for example consumes 15,000 litres of water while 1 kilo of wheat ’drinks up’ 1,500 litres.” For more facts on water and agriculture check out these videos from the UN World Water Day YouTube Channel:

The numbers are pretty shocking and water issues go beyond these videos. As the population grows, water will become increasingly scarce. It is projected that “by 2025, 1.8 billion people will be living in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity, and two-thirds of the world’s population could be living under water stressed conditions.”  One doesn’t have to look far to see the current affects of the water crisis. Droughts in East Africa have led to deaths and left millions of people famished and in need of water and food. 

Water scarcity is an issue we all must face together. World Water Day has done an excellent job of getting the conversation going, but where do we take it from here? What can we do in our day to day lives to help ease the water scarcity issues?

There are several steps we can take to make positive changes in our lives. The number one thing you can do is to think about your purchases and conserve where you can. Be mindful of the amount of water you use for things such as watering, dishes, showers, and even flushing your toilet. When you are purchasing food try to make more sustainable choices such as small farmed vegetables rather than mass produced meat. Install new technologies such as low flushing toilets, greywater re-use systems, or rainwater harvesting system. Or perhaps grow your own food using less water or water recycling technology.

One last, but most certainly not least tip is to educate yourselves and others. There is a lot of new information out there. You can read up on facts via the National Geographic Water Issue Site or the World Water Day site. Another great way to learn is a couple of great documentaries out there such as Flow and Blue Gold. Try starting by using the Water Footprint Calculator to see how your current habits match up and where you can make changes. 

Now take what you’ve learned, celebrate World Water Day today, tomorrow and everyday while telling everyone you know about it. 🙂

In the first scene of her award-winning documentary Flow, Irena Salina uses the sounds and imagery of water to demonstrate its power and beauty. Our world’s oceans are hearts with many rivers and streams serving as arteries and veins. Just like water gives the earth life, water gives us life. Both the earth and our bodies contain about the same percentage of water. For this reason, Salina documents water’s vitality around the globe videotaping how we as humans have altered the flow of water.

Salina notes that of the 2 million annual deaths brought by waterborne illnesses, most are children. How is this occurring? Salina discusses how countries like the United States are not removing industrial chemicals and pesticides from our water. While you might filter your water from your tap or choose to purchase bottled water, the majority of waterborne diseases are transmitted to us through showering. The water directed from our water supply to our sinks, showers, and toilets carries almost everything you originally put into it. Think of all the cosmetics you put into the sink such as mouthwash, contact lense solution, and makeup. Even the drugs we take end up in our water supply. In Texas, an entire fish population in a river tested positive for Prozac.

Don’t we have a department in the government protecting us from these dangers? Unfortunately, Salina notes that we do not. Furthermore, less than 1% of the FDA oversees bottled water. There are less federal regulations for bottled water than tap water. This would explain why bottled water is not necessarily safer to drink. Indeed, the picture of the glacier or mountain on a label is not always the source of the water in the bottle. Despite the misleading marketing, $100 billion is spent on bottled water annually. The entire water industry is worth $400 billion.

But is it ethical to put a price on water, a natural resource, Salina asks. According to global water corporations, the answer is yes. Salina interviews people of developing nations who have felt the effects of water privatization and commercialization firsthand. Water corporations have entered countries like India, Bolivia, and South Africa, charging locals for a water supply that was free only a few decades before. Originally, the water companies were to provide potable water and sewage to the villages and towns in return for use of their water supply. However, in Bolivia, 1 in 10 children will die before the age of 5. A majority of these deaths are a result of waterborne diseases. Also, a majority of people who lives in these privatized areas resort to filthy, unsafe water because they cannot afford the clean water.

Why do the developing nations allow water companies access to their water supplies? According to Salina, the World Bank promised to cut water development loans and other support if the developing nations did not privatize. Salina asks if it is a coincidence that the World Bank works with the World Water Council on issues of privatization. The World Water Council president is the current president of Marseilles Water Company and the former International Monetary Fund’s president’s 2 advisors are the Vice Presidents of Suez and Vivendi, major water companies in Europe. Indeed, the dams, plants, and facilities built by these huge corporations in developing nations displace thousands of people annually and lessen the quality of their water.

Salina ends her frightful documentary by discussing the increased strength of the water literacy movement, which teaches people the threats of privatization and commercialization of water. When the United Nations state that $30 billion can provide safe, clean water to the world, why do we continue to support global water companies by purchasing $100 billion of bottled water annually? Like air and sunlight, water is a natural resource for all the earth’s inhabitants. No one person is more entitled to water because they happen to be able to afford it. To end the privatization of water, Salina asks that you sign a petition asking the United Nations to add the Right to Water to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. To learn more about Article 31, check out their site and remember to sign the petition! And definitely take the time to watch Flow (currently out on DVD), it is an alarming film, which will open your eyes to the water crisis our world currently faces.

-Derek Rogers

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