But worldwide, these simple things aren't so simple. In fact, 1/8 people worldwide lacks safe drinking water and 2/5 people lack adequate sanitation (source). In water-stressed areas, getting water daily is the primary occupation: "millions of women and girls walk for hours every day to collect water for their households, and some of them put their very lives and physical safety at risk" (source). By 2025, the UN expects that 1.8 billion people will be living in countries or regions with "absolute water scarcity" and 2/3 of the world's population could be living under water-stressed conditions (source). This water scarcity and lack of access to safe drinking water and proper sanitation leads to two million deaths a year, with more than 5,000 people (or four people a minute) dying each day from "causes linked to unsafe water, sanitation, and hygiene" (source). Most distressing, children, because of their more vulnerable position, make up large portion of the deaths.
While the crisis is real, the good news is that we can solve this situation. Unlike incurable diseases and intractable human conflicts, we have the technology and knowledge that would help many communities improve their access to safe water and sanitation. Things like freshwater wells, rainwater catchments and sand filters - nothing groundbreaking, just lifechanging. And we are making strides; "in the past 20 years, the UN Millennium Development Goal to halve the proportion of people living without access to clean, safe water has been reached, transforming the lives of two billion people" (source).
And if improving the everyday life of millions of people isn't enough, there is an economic incentive: every $1 invested in water, sanitation, and hygiene programs yields an average of $8 in increased economic productivity and averted healthcare costs (source). "Laurentine Yaméogo from Burkina Faso is proof of that. The extra time and energy she has since her village received clean water mean she can earn a living, making soap and growing peanuts to sell. “We used to get water from a steep pond,” she says. “We were afraid to collect the water because of the crocodiles. We had lots of illness, especially stomach problems. Often my children couldn’t go to school. Since the well was rehabilitated, we haven’t had these illnesses”" (source).
- Learn how much water is used to make the foods we eat every day and consume less water-intensive products.
- Be mindful of food waste – 30 percent of all food produced worldwide is never consumed.
- Encourage food producers to use less water in their food.