Try to imagine your life without water.
You probably wouldn’t get through the first 15 minutes of your day: You drink water from the faucet, brush your teeth, flush the toilet, take a shower. And that’s just the water you see. Water also irrigated the cotton in your pajamas and sheets, produced the energy that powers your bedside lamp, and helped mine the filament in your light bulb. It’s in the coffee and the coffee pot. It’s in the milk and in the alfalfa that fed the cow that produced the milk.
Do you know where your water comes from? Not the tap, but the source? Is it a nearby river? A lake? A groundwater aquifer? Now think about how much water you use. Can you quantify it?
The average American household of four consumes 400 gallons per day. Juxtapose this with the water use of many families in Africa and other parts of the developing world, who often consume as little as 5 gallons per day. Their morning looks very different, too: Mom wakes up and begins a sometimes miles-long trek to the nearest water source to fetch all the water for the day’s drinking, cooking, and cleaning. Her daughters join her (girls are twice as likely as boys to be responsible for collecting water).
Because the family’s water doesn’t come from a tap, they know its source. If it runs low, they know who is taking too much. If it becomes polluted, they know who is to blame. They know that if their freshwater resource is in trouble, so are they.
Globally, more than one in 10 people lack access to clean water, and one in three doesn’t have access to a toilet. Unsafe drinking water kills more people than wars do.