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

It was a beautiful spring day in Boston and we were packing up from Earth Day festival, when a calm yet concerned police officer came by shouting “have you heard of the water ban?” At that particular moment, we had not and the officer proceeded to inform us that the main water line to Boston had sprung a leak causing millions of gallons of fresh drinking water to spill into the Charles River. On top of the wastefulness, the water now pumping into Boston and the surrounding areas was untreated back-up pond water. This meant the water was technically unsafe to drink and could cause illness. The city issued a boil water announcement, asking residents to boil water for at least a minute or use bottled water before drinking or washing dishes and hands.

Honestly, I didn’t mind it so much. It was kind of an adventure to process my own water and who really cared if the shower smelled a bit like a lake?  However, an uproar was heard throughout the city when residents quickly realized this order caused hundreds of restaurants and cafes to either shut down or not serve such modern necessities like coffee. I have to admit, I was a little upset about not being able to enjoy one of my favorite drinks, but this still seemed a small price to pay. Bottled water, a despised product by environmentalists, had become a hot commodity and were flying off the shelves at exorbitant prices. Most people just went along with daily life and saw the issue as a minor inconvenience.  Within a few days the city had fixed the  leak and normality resumed with no reports of disease.

But this all got me thinking, this is how millions of people live every day. We are lucky we have such easy access to water. Those four days, we experienced not only how life was a few hundred years ago, before all our modern conveniences, but how much of the world still lives today. And many of those people, have it even worse as they have to travel miles to gather the water and sometimes it still may not be safe after boiling. Access to clean drinking water is a serious issue with over a billion people affected. This being compounded by economics, politics and serious environmental issues.  And with Climate Change knocking on our doors, this is likely to get worse. In fact it is estimated that by 2050, a third of the world will not have access to clean drinking water!

Water issues are a major problem throughout most of the world. Boston’s recent boil order was just a little slice of that life. It really emphasized how much we take for granted in urban and suburban United States. For the time being, many in the US have access to safe drinking water, but it is a luxury and we should be thankful for it. Actually, not only should we be thankful for it, but we should take action to help others in this country and around the world who are not as fortuitous as we are. For some ideas on how you can help and more information about the world water crisis, please read an earlier blog of ours entitled A Tale of Thirst: A World in Crisis.

While the city of Boston was able to quickly cure their water leak and life soon returned to normal, I couldn’t shake the lesson I had learned. The order issued by the city, hopefully made many no longer take our plumbing and water infrastructure for granted. I know I won’t.  Water issues around the world will still be on my mind. I hope other residents of our city will see this as a sign and will influence us to help others. It is interesting where and how we learn the lessons of life. After all, sometimes something amazing can spring from a leak.

-Gina Williams

Everyday we turn on a faucet, open a bottle, flush a handle, or even stand around the cooler at work. Yes, everyday, without little thought, we have access to clean and safe water. What may seem as a simple pleasure to us here in the States, is a luxury for many around the world. Unfortunately, many, actually it is estimated that about 1 billion people do not have safe drinking water throughout the world. And even worse about 2.6 billion lack proper sanitation. In fact, many scientists and social workers refer to lack of clean water as an all out worldwide water crisis. It is estimated that by 2050 about a third of the world will not have access to fresh water.

Water is not often thought of as a resource or a commodity, but the truth is, it is both. Water is one of the most necessary natural resources, as we need it to not only sustain our lives, but for farming and sanitation. For some parts of the world, the lack of accessibility to such resource is a major problem. For instance in Africa some 40% or the continent’s population lack access and Asia is even worse at about 53%. These numbers are troubling and not surprisingly many of the water issues have to do with economics and politics, but some are just purely environmental. In many of the countries without proper access, the infrastructure just simply does not exist for plumbing or their lack of water is due to drought in the area, which are sure to get worse in the coming years. Another issue is that for many rural people, they must travel miles by foot to find water in faraway lakes and streams. And worst of all, some are surrendered to purchase bottled water at inflated and unattainable prices.

It is clear, we do have a serious water crisis on our hands. Luckily, there are many people out there awakening to this crisis. This last monday marked World Water Day, which drew the attention of the public and press to these issues. What is World Water Day? It is day to bring awareness to the water crisis from the government and the US public. This year, many major US corporations stepped up and got involved! On top of NGOs out there doing wonderful work to bring access to people, brands like Pepsi, Nestle, and Intel have made public commitments to help end the water crisis. Pepsi has actually pledged to help bring safe water to 3 million people by 2015! We say, way to step up your game Pepsi! Nestle is continuing their program of Project WET of water education for schools, including providing information kits. Ok, so giant corporations aren’t always evil. And even us, tiny, little, Autonomie Project has tried to help this crisis by directly funding water projects in the communities from which we work with.

So maybe you are thinking, “I am not a company, but what can I do to help the water crisis?” The answer is, you can do a lot! The Huffington Post, just recently posted an article on numerous ways to get involved including volunteer opportunities locally and abroad and donating money to NGOs such as Give a Drop and Give Clean Water, just to name a few. You can also contact your Senators and US Representatives and let them know your concerns about the water crisis and urge them to get involved with WASH efforts, an organization looking to bring all people safe water and sanitation. You can educate yourself on the crisis though many organizations listed above but also through this wonderful National Geographic guide, Freshwater 101. Also, don’t forget to spread the word about these issues, which is much easier now with the world of social networking and text messages! The more people educated and doing something about this crisis, the more we can avert the tremendous effects it may have on our world and people.

Safe water is becoming more and more scarce across the world and at home.  As mentioned above, in some places bottled water is sold at high prices to combat this issue. Bottled water is not the solution, in fact, it is part of the problem. A wonderful video, just released this week called “The Story of Bottled Water” points to this very issue. Plus it comes with cute animation and music. Check out the video below for more information and let’s help end this water crisis before it is too late.

C’mon, let’s face it: in many ways, this time of year really boils down to the food. There’s a lot of it going around. Which, in turn, makes being conscientious of what you buy and eat even more important. ARE YOU AN ECO-FRIENDLY EATER?! There are ways to discover this scathing truth about yourself . . . fun ways. Planet Green has come up with several quick, insightful quizzes that give a few general pointers on how to keep our consumption of food earth-friendly in the industrial gauntlet of our modern world. I say throw down that gauntlet, in your kitchen.

Try “What’s the Footprint of Your Food?” Some of the numbers associated with the destructive qualities of food production are simply embarrassing.  Without wanting to spoil the answers (kind of), I’ll say that it requires far more water to manufacture bottled water than the amount that actually ends up in the bottle, and the mass-amount of carbon emissions saved by switching to a vegetarian or vegan diet is heavier than I’ll ever hope to bench-press with free weights, this year.

One of the quizzes, which title happens to be the same as the all-caps exclamation above (Are you an Eco-Friendly Eater?) shines some light on even the most basic, every-day aspects of our dining habits.  Do you know which season is most eco-friendly to eat apples?  Or if hand-washing dishes saves more water than a dishwasher? Or how about defining the “100-mile” diet? You’re wrong if you think it involves power-walking for two straight days while chain-drinking packet-shakes.  Or are you?

On top of these two we featured, there are a whole set of Eco-friendly quizzes from food to weddings to fashion to test your knowledge! The most interesting aspect of these Planet Green teasers is that each question and quiz provides informative explanations on the issues and is surrounded by links to other interesting resources on the interwebs for more in-depth research.  I say do that research, and in feeding yourselves and loved ones over the holidays, help try to give the earth a little more good news before 2010.  There are only two years left, after all…

-Jeremy Pearson

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