When the well is dry, we know the worth of water.
— Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard’s Almanac, 1746

The Worth of Water is Survival

Imagine if you lived in a place with no water. Or if there was any water, it was not clean, not 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.

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 temperate 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.

That said, and despite the fact that clean water is mandatory for survival, I would venture to guess that many people in the world take its supply for granted. I must admit that I have thought this very way – in the past. My thinking evolved when I became aware of the facts. 20% of the world’s population lack access to clean drinking water. That’s more than 1 billion people!

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.

What is a water crisis?

Wikipedia defines it in this way: “Water scarcity involves water stress, water shortage or deficits, and water crisis. The concept of water stress is relatively new. Water stress is the difficulty of obtaining sources of fresh water for use, because of depleting resources. A water crisis is a situation where the available potable, unpolluted water within a region is less than that region’s demand.”

Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote, “Water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink.” That was a different scenario where 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 hosts The San Diego Walk for Water. 2013 was the 5th annual walk, which included over 500 students from 30 San Diego area schools, along with high-profile sponsors like Hoehn Land Rover, UPS, Rubio’s, and Road Runner Sports. The event was a resounding success, breaking previous participation records, and raising nearly $70,000.

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, constructing safe water and sewage systems. The water crisis in Africa is particularly severe. Undeterred, PCI workers have travelled to the remote Afar region of Ethiopia, where they provided solution based education to over 95,000 people designed to further promote proper hygiene and sanitation practices.

 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.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Potable_water)

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 systems.

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. Two months after the earthquake, more than 40,000 residents of Fort National had yet to receive any emergency assistance. Survivors wandered among the rubble and decay without any 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, establish programs that prevent the spread of cholera, rebuilt and improved health, water and sanitation systems.

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.

Solutions evolve. Hope continues and grows.