Water, though paramount to the survival of all living organisms on Earth, is often taken for granted in the developed world. Being so readily available and safe to drink through the tap or out of the bottle, many westerners overlook the absolute necessity of clean, accessible water. Water is responsible for the growth our crops and the health of our livestock. Water can power our cities and potentially fuel our cars. With too many people relying on the same source, water can cause tension and conflict. Without water all together, this planet simply cannot survive.
In essence, water is life.
But nowhere is this notion more apparent than in the developing world, where access to water is legitimately a matter of life and death. Today, 894 million people live without access to reliable and clean water sources. This number, when compounded by the 2.5 billion people who live without basic sanitation, results in 1.5 million deaths per year. 2,000 to 5,000 liters of water is required to produce only one person’s food per day, a requirement that certainly contributes to the figure of 1 billion people currently suffering from chronic hunger. Without this resource to hydrate our bodies, keep our hands and homes clean, or produce our food, survival is impossible.
This is why we celebrate World Water Day every March 22. Since 1992 the world has observed the absolute necessity of the most essential resource on Earth; water. From “Walks for Water” fundraisers to online discussions raising awareness about water issues, this day is made for events that celebrate water around the world. This year’s theme is “Water for Cities, Responding to the Urban Challenge.” As such, the city of Seattle is fully committed to this year’s World Water Day with an all day forum and exposition located in Seattle City Hall. And in case you missed Global Washington’s email, Seattle’s Chief Sealth International High School is devoting this entire week to a festival consisting of events focused on water.
Although water is often over looked, it is still a prerequisite for happiness and prosperity, and deserves to be celebrated as such. I was lucky enough to experience the comfort and joy attained through the access of clean water in my time in Damaraland, Namibia. While volunteering on an elephant conservation project aimed at reducing conflict between those loveable giants and the people with whom they share the desert, my fellow volunteers and I constructed an elephant-proof wall around a man-made well.
Water being a scarce commodity in the deserts of Namibia, elephants are known to demolish plumbing and cave in wells in their attempt to consume what water they can. Such destruction can very easily lead to lethal human retaliation for the disruption of vital access to water. I watched as the inhabitants of the nearby farms and villages, bringing their herds of goats and sheep for a much needed water break as they grazed the hot and arid landscape. With appreciation etched on their faces as they realized this well was now a reliable source of water for themselves and their herds, I came to realize just how important this water was for the survival of these herders and for the survival of all natural beings.
Happy World Water Day everyone!