Have you ever gone a day or even a few hours without water in your house? Its super annoying! Everything is on hold for us when we don't have water. We don't wash dishes, we don't do laundry, we can't even flush the toilets! And you hope it doesn't last long because not many of us save water for such occasions.
Imagining living where there was no running water in your house (our grandparents, maybe our parents, maybe even you can remember what that was like back in the day!), no running water and no easy access to water. Imagine having to walk a mile or several miles a day and carry enough water for your household, enough water for drinking, cooking, washing and laundry. Imagine your water access is a shared pool with the animals. This may be hard for us to imagine but for a large portion of our world this is a reality.
I spent a month in africa in the summer of 2009 in a small community, getting to know the people, how they live, what they struggle with and some of the challenges and goals for their lives. A resounding theme was water and access to clean water! Something that we in north america can not even begin to fathom!
The following are a couple of pages from the scrapbook I made of my time spent in africa (feel free to check out the whole book when you come visit me!):
Water running in the ditches, often gathered by children for use in the home.
The same water that is shared with the ducks below!
The watering hole below contains stagnant standing water and is frequently used as well.
Below is the washroom. Built in people's yards it is covered, moved and a new hole dug when it is full. Which means when it finally does rain in africa, yards are flooded with refuse which contaminates water sources even more.
Children gathering water for their families
Below is a hole dug in a womans yard for her family to use. As the dry season continues, this water source will dwindle and eventually disappear making it more difficult for a single mother of two to provide for her children.
Gathering water from a municipal source. I'm pretty sure this is water that they have to pay for.
Below is a picture of the municipal water source which is piped into people's homes who can afford it.
A well source, comes at a cost to individuals who choose to use it.
The pipe that carries water from the municipal source from Lake Victoria to Mwanza
Water must be contained and saved during rainy season in order to survive dry season
Another source where you have to pay for water
Part of my purpose in going to Igoma was to do some research and discover what some next steps could be for the community. It did not take long to discover that clean water is a huge issue and the weather does not cooperate much either! Half the year the rains do not fall and things get drier and drier while the other half the year it rains and everything is constantly covered in contaminated runoff water. But it is not just a matter of getting clean water that is safe to drink to the people, it is a matter of getting any kind of water to the people. Access to water is a major obstacle for the majority of Igoma. I was shocked to see children gathering water from a small stagnant pond of water that had accumulated from a leaking pipe. And it wasn’t a single event. When water is so hard to find, any water source that is close is used, including stagnant water shared with animals. This water is used for all purposes in the home, washing, bathing, cleaning, cooking and drinking. It is easy to see why illness rates from unclean water are so high.
Coming home from a life changing trip like this causes you to see your world differently. Water at the touch of a button without a care for where it comes from, trusting that it is clean and will not harm us and wasted daily so frivilously. With the world's population so high, we cannot ignore the wasted water in our corner. Our water footprint (the amount of water we use) highly exceeds what our world can sustain with our population. If we expect to maintain and provide for our world population, we in the developed world must take up the challenge of equitable distribution and use of water throughout the world.
Consider how much water you use in a day and how you could decrease the waste. Shorter showers? Full loads in your washer?
But its not just the water you run in your house. All the food that you eat has an imbedded water footprint in it. For example, meat has a high water footprint (the amount of water it takes to produce meat and get it to your table) compared to vegetables. The clothes that you wear and the products in your house have a water footprint as well.
The following shows the average water footprint of countries worldwide. As you can see, we consume a large amount compared to most other nations (http://www.waterfootprint.org/?page=files/WaterFootprintsNations)
Consider your footprint and research ways to make changes and help sustain our world for this generation and the generations to come. Check out Waterfootprint.org
Consider helping to build and support wells in developing countries that struggle with access to water.
You can make your footprint smaller and yet have a bigger impact! Take up the challenge!!