Woman and child gathering water in India

Reposted from Green Life Blue Water

March 22, 2017 was World Water Day.  The U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a set of 17 Global Goals designed to end poverty, provide a quality education, provide affordable and clean energy, and create sustainable cities and communities, to name a few.  My personal favorite is SDG #6 which seeks to ensure access to water and sanitation for all by the year 2030.

Clean water is a basic human right, right?  While the answer to that would be yes in industrialized nations, the practicality is that in developing nations, many go without this basic right.  So to raise awareness for the plight of 1/3 of the people in the world who lack this access, I’d like to play a little game, a challenge if you will.  Why, you ask?  Well, let me tell you.  And while I’m gathering my thoughts, let us remember that humans can only live for four days without water.

Question one — do you have access to clean water?  If you answered yes, do you have access to a shower, a tub, a toilet and running water?  If you answered yes again, you are ahead of about 1.6 million people in the U.S., most of them Native American, or living in Appalachia or in pockets of New England.  Worldwide, 783 million people do not have access to clean water.  That’s 1 in 9.  Are you the unlucky “1”?

Two, do you have adequate sanitation?  If so, you are better off than about 2.5 billion people who don’t have access to a toilet, who may be forced to defecate in an open field or an alleyway, or who are made physically unsafe because of this lack of access.

22 May 1980, Niagara Falls, New York State, USA — Original caption: Clean up efforts have started in the Love Canal. Signs have been posted all over the area with a special warning to all residents to KEEP OUT. Most of the residents have taken that advice and have moved to Motels following a press statement yesterday in Washington. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

Third, do you live in a town where some quasi-governmental agency pumps water from the ground, treats it to assure it’s clean, and delivers it to your faucet where all you have to do is turn on the tap to let it flow?  If so, you are in better shape than 2.2 million people who die annually from diarrhea caused by water-related diseases, the majority of them children.

The average American uses 400 gallons of water a day, about 70% of those gallons in the bathroom. In developing nations, where women walk to gather water, people use about eight gallons of water a day.  So . . .

IF YOU ANSWERED YES to all three questions, I challenge you to use no more than 10 gallons of water in a single day.  That’s 10 gallons for everything:  washing, sanitation, hygiene, cooking, teeth brushing, the whole works.  I gotta tell you, it’s hard!  The only time I’ve been able to do it is when we’re camping. Yet 1/3 of the world’s population does it every single freaking day.

And while you do it, remember these gals walk for miles to gather water, 200 million work hours worth of collecting water, in a single day. #womencollectingwater #worldwaterday #10gallonchallenge

Let me know how you do it and how you found it.  Hard, easy. impossible?  Stop back and tell me, tomorrow, next week, even next year, it doesn’t matter.  The only thing that matters is that you realize how precious water is to you and to us all.


P. J. Lazos is an environmental attorney practicing in Philadelphia, and the author of “Oil and Water,” an environmental murder mystery about oil spills and green technology. Her work and travels have shaped her water-wise view of the world; she values her carefree access to clean, potable water, and envisions a world where everyone has that same daily experience.