When the well is dry, we know the worth of water.
— Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard’s Almanac, 1746
Filling the Wells around the World
World Water Day – March 22nd:
World Water Day is held annually on the 22nd of March as a means of focusing attention on the importance of freshwater and advocating for the sustainable management of freshwater resources.
An international day to celebrate freshwater was recommended at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED). The United Nations General Assembly responded by designating March 22nd, 1993 as the first World Water Day.
Why is World Water Day important?
Imagine if you lived in a place with no water. Or if there was any water, it was not clean or safe to drink. What if you were a mom, with no water to give to your children? Nothing to do but hold them close to you as they became ill and listless from dehydration. Although it seems hard to believe, this is an all too common reality for millions of men, women, and children worldwide.
The water crisis has many factors that affect water shortages and water contamination in various parts of the world. Different problems require different solutions. Let’s explore the facts, as well as PCI’s involvement to positively impact the global water crisis.
How much water does a person need to survive? How long can anyone survive without water? The specific numbers vary from source to source. For example – 3 weeks vs. 3 days. Food vs. water. Some say more, some say less, but the ratio of the numbers rarely wavers. The bottom line remains. A person can survive for a good long while without food, but only several days without water.
Why is this?
In the simplest terms, it is because our physical mass is composed of a high percentage of water. About 66-75% of the human body is a property of water. The human brain consists of 80% water. The tricky part is that our internal water balance must be replaced regularly. Did you know that the body loses/sweats approximately 1 liter of water per day? And that’s in a resting state. When we sweat due to strenuous exercise or in extreme weather conditions, our bodies lose as much as 1.5 liters an hour! Again, these figures vary depending upon the source. But the facts remain. Regular water replenishment is necessary in order for the body to survive.
20% of the world’s population lack access to clean drinking water.
That’s more than 1 billion people!
Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote, “Water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink.” That was a different scenario in which the ocean was the undrinkable water; but the desperately parched feeling would be the same as it is in our world’s regions that have been struck by devastating drought. In some cases, there is water all around; only it is too filthy and disease laden for human consumption.
In order to survive, people across the globe go to enormous lengths to locate and procure water. For example, in Sub-Saharan Africa and other under-developed regions, women and girls must walk up to 6 miles every day simply to retrieve water, which they then carry back to their families in 44-pound containers. Even then, the water is usually dirty.
For the past several years, to acknowledge the UN-sanctioned World Water Day, as well as raise awareness about the global water crisis, PCI has hosted the San Diego Walk for Water. 2014 was the 6th annual walk, which included over 500 students from 30 San Diego area high schools, along with several high-profile sponsors including Chili’s and Rubio’s restaurants. The event was a resounding success!
The Walk for Water fundraiser represents only a fraction of PCI’s involvement to seek and implement water crisis solutions. Volunteers and PCI workers are tireless in their efforts to help communities develop sustainable water systems. This includes digging wells, building latrines, and constructing safe water and sewage systems.
What obstacles interfere with our entire world population having access to clean water?
Drinking water, also known as potable water, “is water safe enough to be consumed by humans or used with low risk of immediate or long term harm. In most developed countries, the water supplied to households, commerce and industry meets drinking water standards, even though only a very small proportion is actually consumed or used in food preparation. Typical uses (for other than potable purposes) include toilet flushing, washing and landscape irrigation.” (www.wikipedia.org)
Access to potable water presents a challenge to both urban and rural communities. The reasons vary from region to region, but the most common problems are drought, flood, and the absence of basic sanitation systems. The numbers of people suffering because of these challenges are staggering. At least 2.6 billion people – 41 percent of the global population – do not have access to any sort of basic sanitation system. As a result, millions suffer from dehydration and life-threatening diseases that claim the lives of thousands each day.
PCI understands that increasing access to cost-effective and sustainable water and sanitation services is essential to helping children and communities prevent disease. The impact of clean water service and sanitation is profound; not only does it bring about survival and better health, it also has positive economic, environmental, and social impacts. By working together with our beneficiaries, PCI provides access to clean water sufficient for: drinking, cooking, bathing, washing, and irrigation.
Clean water action is crucial when disaster strikes a community. Drought is one such natural disaster that deprives entire countries of water. Earthquakes are another. Earthquakes usually strike without warning, leveling buildings and killing people in seconds. Afterward, the devastation continues because of damage and/or complete destruction of structures and utilities, including sanitation and clean water services.
After the devastating earthquake in Haiti killed more than 230,000 people and left over a million homeless, PCI travelled to the region ASAP to help families recover and communities rebuild. Nonetheless – due the enormity of regional devastation – two months after the earthquake, more than 40,000 residents of Fort National still had yet to receive any emergency assistance. Survivors wandered among the rubble and decay without access to food, water, shelter or other basic necessities. With the support of community partners, PCI worked with residents to: remove debris, construct a community health clinic, rebuild sanitation systems, and establish programs that prevent the spread of cholera.
Unfortunately, our world water crisis is ongoing. Globally, victims of all ages continue to succumb in alarming numbers to the ravages of dehydration and waterborne diseases. PCI recognizes that clean water is available for all, but often not without education, assistance, and hard work. Just as the problems continue, so do the tireless, life-saving efforts of PCI and its partners.