Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Boil Over is Over…

For those of you who didn’t know, Boston was in a state of emergency this weekend into yesterday. A water main broke outside of the city and 2 million residents in the Boston area were urged to boil all of their water for everything but showering/bathing. This included brushing my teeth! The water was contaminated with foreign organisms that could cause diseases, especially in the young and old. It definitely set a damper to my hydration the past couple of days as drinking water was not 100% available. I could only carry so many glass jars of water in my bag for my 30 minute walk to the office. It definitely made me appreciate the technology, infrastructure and operations that are required to bring me clean water every day. As I sipped my first glass of non-boiled, purified water yesterday, I could not be more content. It made me think about those in this world who are not so blessed to be able to have access to clean water and to be adequately hydrated. Did you know:

Water is essential for survival:
  • People can survive for up to two months without food, but die within three days without water
  • 1.1B people in the world do not have access to safe water, roughly 1/6 of the world’s population-more than 3 times the number of people in the US
  • The World Health Organization has estimated that 80% of all sickness and disease in the world is attributable to inadequate water or sanitation
  • ~2,000 children a year (~6,000 a day) in developing countries die from diseases associated with lack of access to safe drinking water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene
  • It has been estimated that if clean water were universally available, the world rate of infant mortality could be halved, primarily through eradication of diarrheal diseases.
Women in developing countries spend much time, effort and strength to ensure their families have clean water:
  • Women in Africa and Asia walk an average of 6 km (3.7 miles) daily to collect water and carry it on their heads
  • In Kenya, 3M women each spend an average of 3 hours a days on the single task to fetching water - that equals 9 million hours daily.
  • The weight of water that women in Africa and Asia carry on their heads is the equivalent of your airport luggage allowance (20kg; 44 lbs!). The most a woman can carry in comfort is 15 liters, each liter weighing one kilogram. If she carries only enough water for her family (husband, mother, five children) to survive each day, she would need to fetch about 40 liters. But to keep them all clean and healthy she would need to fetch 200 liters of water every day, which is basically impossible...
The developed world uses way too much water
  • One flush of your toilet uses as much water as the average person in the developing world uses for a whole day’s washing, cleaning, cooking AND drinking
We will not have clean water forever-it’s not an unlimited resource
  • Projections for 2025 indicate that the number of people living in water-stressed countries will increase to 3 billion – a six-fold increase. Today, 470 million people live in regions where severe shortages exist
(stats courtesy of
The past couple of days have been a reminder of how precious water is and how good we have it. This brief post has only touched upon several topics of our planet's water issues.  One step that we can personally take care of and with little effort is evaluating our water footprint. I go with the footprints again.  I have had the image (below) as a poster at my desk for a couple of years and several co-workers have come over and are shocked by the content. It shows examples of how seemingly small decisions we make leave a very large water footprint. 

Summer is right around the corner; it is a time where we are all tempted to douse ourselves in water, fill our pools, run our sprinklers, and wash our cars. Before doing any of those things, please take the time to think of the impact it will have on the world. Be conservative with your water usage because its not going to be around forever. Be on the lookout for an announcement of my screening of Flow in the Boston area. If you are not in the Boston or are particularly interested in the topic of water conservation and access, I would recommend for you to check out this film.

How do you feel about your usage of water? What can you do to reduce your water footprint?

No comments:

Post a Comment