The average American uses 159 gallons of water every day – more than 15 times the average person in the developing world. From showering and washing our hands to watering our lawns and washing our cars, Americans use a lot of water. To put things into perspective, the average five-minute shower will use about 10 gallons of water. Now imagine using that same amount to bathe, wash your clothes, cook your meals and quench your thirst.This point has been driven home to me through news stories, documentaries, fact sheets and web sites. The result is that I struggle to use less water and get mad at myself when I use more to do a simple task than I think necessary. Can I be more efficient in washing dishes and vegetables, for example? Should I put a timer on my showers and then challenge myself to make them shorter? Can I reuse grey water in a way that is practical and makes sense? While I ponder those and other questions, I look around and see neighbors that wash their cars frequently, have swimming pools, or do other things that waste something that is so precious in other areas of the world. I can even look at my own family and see members who are water wasters.
The problem -- or good news -- is that people in my region have enough water. There is no need for us to give our unused water to our neighbors, because they have enough. Those that need water are elsewhere in the world. While shipping water to them is a possibility, what they need is a way for them to make what they have sanitary. They also need to be able to get water to the areas where it is needed, so people aren't walking miles for potable water (suitable for drinking). They may need help drilling wells, building irrigation systems or aqueducts. These are often tasks that a community cannot do on its own because of the expense or resources needed.
So if I can't be there to help them, what can I do? What can you do?
- Learn more about the problem and its solutions.
- Find ways of using less water, because even though we think we have enough water, the reality is that our water supply is changing and every year we have more people who are reliant on it.
- Help to keep our waterways and aquifers free of pollutants.Pollution travels and our pollutants end up in places that we can see and affect people we don't know.
- Support organizations and projects that are working to reduce the number of people in the world who do not have access to clean water and adequate sanitation.
- Teach those around us about this issue.