You’ve just read some stories on global water issues and how some people in the world are suffering simply because they do not have access to clean water. Now, what are you going to do with what you have learned? Below are some challenges, tips, and resources that you can take advantage of. Live your life water-consciously everyday and remember that the smallest act can lead to something great.
Challenges (or Things to Think About)
- Allow yourself 5 or 6 gallons (around 20 liters) of water each day for a week. This water is to be used for drinking, cooking, cleaning, etc. Do you think you can make it for a week? The United Nations Development Programme believes that a human being needs a minimum of 20 liters of water per day in order to survive (Hastings 10). The unfortunate truth is that some people have access to less than the requirement. Some have to walk for miles to a stream or water pump several times a day for their water needs. The water that they drink is most likely dirty, something that is far less potable than the clean water you get from your tap, or even your toilet.
- A Greater Challenge: Collect as much rainwater as you like. Use only this collected water for all your needs. You can boil it for drinking, but you cannot replace it from your faucet. Use the collected rainwater for a month. At the end of the month, you have the choice to turn on your faucet. Will you turn it on? Most of you will just go back to your old lifestyle, but keep in mind that some people don’t have the choice to turn on their faucet. They don’t have faucets. Some people depend on rainwater in areas that don’t rain often. What will you do to help these people? (Payne)
- Turn on your faucet when you are brushing your teeth. Let the water run into a bowl. When you are done brushing your teeth, turn off the faucet. Find out how much water is in the bowl. Multiply that number by the people in your house and you can see how much water is being wasted by your family just brushing their teeth without turning the faucet off. You can also multiply the amount of water in the bowl by your town’s population or by the country’s population (Fonjweng). That gives you a rough idea of how much water is being wasted when people let the water run as they brush their teeth. (Now use that water in the bowl to wash your dishes or water your plants. Don’t just throw it in the sink!)
- Go to Water Science for Schools webpage by the United States Geological Survey to calculate how much water you use per day. Keep in mind that some people have access to only 5.28 gallons of water a day. Are you over this amount? If so, by how much? How many lives can be saved with the amount of water you wasted? (Amount of water used in one day – 5.28 gallons = amount wasted. Amounted wasted/5.28 gallons = number of people you could have helped)
- Fill a 5-gallon jerry can and carry it for a mile (don’t hurt yourself!). This will give you a sense of what a water chore feels like. Consider yourself lucky that you don’t have to do this every day. Some children carry full cans for miles, walking barefoot, walking up and down hills. Some even have to do this several times a day. (Remember to reuse that water in your can!)
- Imagine: How long does it take you to take a shower? When you turn on the water to fill a glass, how long do you let it run into the drain for? What would happen if the only thing coming out of your faucets was air? What would you do? (Fonjweng)
- Get a rectangular plastic, glass, or aluminum container. Get some wet soil and wrap that with a plastic sheet. Cut some holes in your plastic sheet to expose some of the soil. Place your soil on one side of the container to represent your “land mass.” The parts that are wrapped in plastic represent all the driveways, roads, and other surfaces that water is not absorbed into the ground. Stick some twigs and leaves in the soil to create a “forest.” If you have plastic animal figurines, put them on your “land mass” for ambiance. Now, it’s time for you to pollute your land! Sprinkle some mayonnaise (represents oil spills, oil runoffs into water sources), mustard (represents human and animal wastes), cigarette butts, bits of paper (represent litter), crushed dried leaves (represent organic litter and agricultural runoff), and anything else that you think represents pollutants. Now take a cup to two cups of water and pour it on your land (represents rain), letting the water wash the pollutants from the soil. Carefully pour the now polluted water into a clear cup. This cup of polluted water represents what some people in the world have to drink because they do not have access to filtered and treated water. Would you drink this polluted water? (Abington High School)
- When you see someone wasting water, how would you convince them to stop?
- Contact your local water department and see if they give group tours. Convince your teacher to take a class trip to the local water department or treatment plant. By seeing where your drinking water comes from will give you a better sense of how clean your water is compared to those living in poverty. It will also convince you that buying bottled water is a huge waste.
- Find out if there are local water issues in your area. Ask local politicians or officials how you can help solve the issues.
- Contact local politicians and ask them what is being done to ensure the safety of the water and that future generations will have enough clean drinking water in their lifetime.
Water Conservation Tips
There are hundreds of ways that you can conserve water. Here are just a few:
- Turn off your faucet while brushing your teeth.
- Take short showers. You can even brush your teeth and wash your face while in the shower. Turn off the water while brushing and lathering.
- Flush your toilet when you go number 2. Keep in mind: if it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down!
- Only run the dishwasher on full load. If washing by hand, fill a large container or the sink with water. Use this to rinse your dishes when they are already soaped and scrubbed.
- Fix leaks in your house and around your house.
- Instead of having a lawn, especially one with water-thirsty Kentucky bluegrass, plant native shrubs, wildflowers, and native grasses. These tend to be sturdy alternatives for your climate. If you already have a lawn and want to keep it, then avoid watering it during the daytime when most of it would be lost to evaporation. You also do not need to water your lawn every day, especially when it’s going to rain.
- Collect rainwater and use this to water your plants or even wash your car.
You can find more tips at “100 Ways to Conserve”:
Abington High School students. Water Ambassadors Program Presentation. University of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania. 8 Nov. 2008.
Fonjweng, Godlove. Phone Interview. 28 July 2009.
Hastings, Claire, ed. Water Rights and Wrongs. New York: United Nations Development Programme, 2007.
Payne, Mel. Interview. 16 Apr. 2009.