6 sobering facts you should hear about... Clean Water and Sanitation
From dirty supplies to the fact that we’re using far too much of it, clean water is key to life on Earth.
1. We are all made up of water...
We hear it all the time, but it’s true. Some organisms are made up almost entirely of water, with jellyfish clocking up about 95% (taken out of water, they become completely nonfunctional blobs). Adult humans aren’t at jellyfish level, but we are made up of about 60% water. Our hearts and brains are 73%, our lungs are 83%. Even our bones are 31% water. Logically enough, to keep this all functioning properly, we need to consume between 2.2 litres and 3 litres per day, depending on whether we are female or male.
2. ...but we are out of balance
We’ve been over consuming water for decades now (mostly for agriculture) as well as polluting it (80% of wastewater is dumped into rivers or oceans without being cleaned). Unsurprisingly, everything is now out of whack. And climate change is making it worse. It’s estimated that if we keep going like this, by 2050 half the world will be at risk of water shortages.
3. Nature has a solution, if we let it
Trees, like humans, have an intimate relationship with water, and could be our strongest allies in sorting out the mess we’ve made. Trees suck water from the soil to survive – this much we know. But 40% of our planet’s rainfall comes a process called evapotranspiration, which is basically what happens when trees exhale. Moisture comes out of their leaves, which helps to generate rain. Without rainforests (we’re losing the equivalent of 1,000 football fields every hour), rainfall around the world is directly affected.
4. We need to clean up our act
Globally, about 2 billion people are accessing drinking water that is contaminated with faecal matter. Even more people (around 2.4 billion) don’t have access to toilets or latrines. That’s not only bad for human health (it spreads diseases like cholera), but it also has socio-economic impacts. It falls mostly to women and girls to collect clean water and look after sick relatives – taking up time they could spend being educated or earning a livelihood. Women in sub-Saharan Africa spend roughly 40 billion hours a year collecting water.
On November 4, 2018, water advocate and ultra runner Mina Guli set off on a journey to raise awareness about the water crisis and build a community of water-conscious citizens. She started at the New York Marathon, with the goal of running 100 marathons in 100 days. Her route covered the UK, France, Italy, Uzbekistan, India, China, Dubai and South Africa, and she met other water activists along the way, blogging about their stories. On the flight from South Africa to Australia, she developed an excruciating pain. After 75 marathons (aka 1,966.425 miles), she had broken her leg. It fell to her supporters to finish the goal for her, which only served to further connect the community.
6. Untapped Shores
One of the groups Mina connected with was Untapped Shores, co-founded by Patrick Shores. Living in Uganda in 2013, Patrick noticed that hard-to-reach communities lived in a continual cycle of water-borne disease that could be broken if they had access to simple technology. He introduced Pure Shores CPS, a handheld device that allows villagers (even children) to purify unsafe water for up to 2,000 people per day. The purifying agent, chlorine, is created using sunlight and salt, both of which are abundantly available. To date, Untapped Shores has given 123, 467 villagers access to clean water across 20 countries. And they have no plans to stop there.