Just the sight of the vast blue ocean gets us high. The urge to plunge in is impossible to resist. We hit the water, feet first but it isn’t enough. We dip our bodies in and soak in the coolness. We are in deep. We are in love.
Our relationship with water didn’t start at the beach however. Water plays a significant role in our home, in our lives. Without it, life cannot survive. It is the most omnipresent element in the entire planet. We human beings need it and we cannot live without it.
However, as abundant as it may seem (since it falls from the sky), not everyone has access to it because of drought and water scarcity. And not everyone has access to its potable form, a form where it’s safe to drink or use in food preparation.
Then there’s the issue of COVID-19; experts tell us that handwashing is our best defense against the spread of the coronavirus and yet two out of five of the world’s population – roughly three billion people – lack the basic handwashing facilities needed such as water and soap. 1.4 billion people don’t have any handwashing facilities at all! With inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene, the spreading of diseases is inevitable.
World Water Day has come and gone but as we reflect on issues around climate change as well as the growing concerns over the commodification of water, being grateful for this life-giving resource is an important step in conserving it.
Knowledge starts with education. So start familiarising yourself with water issues such as droughts and how it impacts farmers; what water scarcity means for food security, livelihoods and even conflict. What happens when speculators and bankers monetise water and trade it as a commodity.
The more you understand the global water crisis and its related issues, the more you will be inspired to act in ways that conserve water, but also, the more action you may take to help those in need and protect the vital resource from being monopolised by vested interests.
1. Discuss these issues with your family and friends
Don’t hoard knowledge, share it. Share what you’ve learned with members of your family and friends so that they may start to value and be thankful for water and perhaps change their unconscious and wasteful habits.
2. Read the book ‘A Long Walk to Water’
If it weren’t for my fifth grader’s reading class, I would never have heard of the incredible (and very emotional) story of Salva Dut in the book, A Long Walk to Water, written by Linda Sue Park. The author weaves in the true to life journey of Salva Dut, one of the ‘Lost Boys’ from Sudan, and the hardships and struggles he experienced as an 11-year-old during the second Sudanese Civil War in 1985, hardships that people in South Sudan are experiencing until today.
Surviving the ordeal, Dut went on to establish Water for South Sudan, a non-profit organization established in 2003 in Rochester, New York to provide the people of South Sudan access to clean and safe water. Their mission also includes improving hygiene and sanitation practices and prioritizing areas in the country that are in great need.
Everybody has the right to clean water and Salva Dut’s initiative to provide the country with access to clean water gives the South Sudanese a chance to live healthier lives, encourages local communities and economies to grow and helps people survive under the constant threat of climate change. So far, the organisation have drilled ten new wells and repaired twenty-four older wells in this season alone.
So read the book. Read it to your kids if you have them. You will come away more grateful, more appreciative and less likely to waste the world’s most precious resource.
3. Watch ‘The Water Walker’ Film
The Water Walker is a 15-minute documentary-animation film following young Indigenous water warrior, Autumn Peltier, whose passion and perseverance to protect water and preserve the future of indigenous peoples is heart-warming. A Canadian Indigenous water activist and a member of the Wikmewikong First Nation, Autumn Peltier became a water protector or “water warrior” for the Anishinabek Nation when she was just 14 years of age. She serves as an inspiration to us all.
4. Host a screening of ‘Brave Blue World: Racing to Solve Our Water Crisis’
This 50-minute documentary film was created to open viewer’s eyes to the global water crisis – that two billion people do not have access to safe, clean water and that the issue isn’t just one facing people in developing nations. ‘Brave Blue World: Racing to Solve Our Water Crisis‘ is narrated by Liam Neeson and features co-founders of water.org, Matt Damon and Jaden Smith. After watching it, make sure to share what you learn with others. Better still, send them the link and have a conversation when they’ve watched it.
5. Donate to water charities
If you have all the water you need and want to help others access water for their needs, make sure to donate to water charities and NGOs who are helping to change the lives of those directly affected by the water crisis. Some charitable organizations that are leading the change:
6. Save water
Last but not least, save water. Have shorter showers. Turn off the tap when brushing your teeth. Install water tanks. Place a bucket at your feet when showering to use the collected water on your gardens. Don’t wash clothes after wearing just once. Plant drought-tolerant perennial plants that don’t aren’t water-thirsty. There are a multitude of ways to save water – but being conscious of water conservation is the first step to saving it.
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Cover image of women with water container at well in Sri Lanka by Dominic Sansoni / World Bank.