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World Water Day: How You Can Help

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March 22, 2012

World Water Day is an annual event created by the United Nations to focus our collective global attention on the issues surrounding finite, clean, safe water. Water scarcity may well be the greatest crisis of our times. On March 22nd, people across the globe will celebrate this year’s World Water Day theme, Water and Food Security: Call for Solutions.

Before we explore WWD further, I would invite you to consider the last time you had no access to clean water when you needed it. If you have ever experienced water scarcity, even casually, what did that look like? What did you have to do to solve that problem?

  • Did you have to walk 3.7 miles a day to collect water – like the average woman does?
  • Did you have to use dirty water for cooking, drinking, or cleaning?
  • Did you have to keep your children from an education because they are needed to haul water?

My guess is, if you were born and raised in a Western nation, the answer would be, “No.” But that may not always be the case. If  you live in an arid climate, you know that climate change is beginning to negatively affect our water sources here too. Water scarcity affects every continent. It is an issue, here, primarily in the southwestern part of the United States, and reaches into at least half of Mexico.

Unfortunately, one in eight people (or an estimated 1 billion people, worldwide) lack access to safe drinking water. Two in five people lack access to basic sanitation. The lack of access to clean water and sanitation disproportionately affects women and girls.

Water is the Key to Food Security

The average person needs 2 to 4 litres (about 1/2 to 1 gallon) of water a day, but it takes 2000 to 5000 litres (about 528 to 1,320 gallons) of water to produce one person’s daily food. The world’s greatest work over the next few decades will be to find ways to feed more people, using fewer resources, and with more sustainably.

The good news is that, for every $1 invested in sustainable water projects and basic sanitation and hygiene, $8 is returned in increased productivity and reduced health care costs.

A Few Solutions in Agriculture to Combat Water Scarcity and Food Insecurity:

  • Produce more food with less water. From family farms in the United States to soil-less crops in Dubai, farmers are learning to maintain healthy soils, rotate crops, and focus on crop water management through conservation agriculture.
  • Put strategies in place to combat climate change and natural disasters. This is a topic that books could be written about, but organic agricultural practices, conservation agriculture, and greater energy and water efficiency are thought to be important strategies.
  • Reuse and recycle. We all benefit when water is reused or recycled. More infrastructure may be needed in the developing world and better education is needed worldwide for success.
  • Reduce food waste. An estimated 30% of edible food is wasted every year. This not only means less food is getting to the people, but water and other resources have been wasted in the production of it.
  • Sustainable diets. Eating sustainably means a lower impact on the environment and natural resources. Choosing food with smaller water footprints, like in a vegetarian diet, is one way to reduce the water needed to produce food.

Take Action

Educate yourself and others about the global water crisis. Read about the issues and what organizations and governments are doing to solve it.

Donate your voice. The Coalition for World Water Day is advocating for safe drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) issues in Congress and could use your help! Check out a list of events near you or simply allow your Facebook or Twitter statuses to be updated for World Water Week.

Write your members of Congress and ask them to support the Senator Paul Simon Water for the World Act.

Conserve water at home. We can all do our part to protect the world’s clean water by using less.

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