Monday, December 22, 2008

A World Without Water

We still do not have running water at our house. Today is the four week mark. We now have a new bored well, but as of this morning it neither has a pump nor is it connected to the water lines leading into the house.

Throughout this time I have reflected often how very, very blessed we are. We can go down the street to fill up jugs of water. We can buy disposable diapers, plates and cups, as well as having those used things hauled off to the dump and away from our home. We have available to us a plethora of waterless cleaning products- disposable disinfectant cloths, waterless hand sanitizer, disinfectant sprays. We have an ever present choice to vacate our home and either visit someone where we can shower and bathe, or even to go live with them for awhile. We have friends who have generously donated so much to help us out.

Throughout this month, my heart has grown heavier and heavier thinking about the many, many people throughout the world who live without running water as a permanent lifestyle. They cannot simply borrow water from a neighbor or run to the store to buy some cleaning products. Wondering about the true numbers of people without water, I came across these staggering statistics:

  • 884 million people in the world do not have access to safe water. This is roughly one in eight of the world's population.
  • 2.5 billion people in the world do not have access to adequate sanitation, this is almost two fifths of the world's population.
  • 1.8 million children die every year as a result of diseases caused by unclean water and poor sanitation. This amounts to around 5000 deaths a day.
  • The simple act of washing hands with soap and water can reduce diarrhoeal diseases by over 40%.

This simply floored me. It makes me wonder, how can we with so much, who live in such abundance allow so many people to live without such a basic need. Not only do Americans live in abundance, but they squander their abundance. American households use on average 69.3 gallons of water each day, which is roughly twice the amount of water as their European counterparts. I urge you to think, to really be mindful of how you are using your water. My husband has been showering at his mom's house, and we've done laundry at other's houses,; however, our laundry has bee radically reduced from about one load a day to about 3 loads a week through insisting that we all wear our clothes until they are visibly dirty, and through using paper goods. (When water is restored, we will return to eliminating paper goods and disposable diapers-which yields to probably another load of laundry a week)) Removing those tasks leaves us using about 8-10 gallons per day.

Most of our water consumption, by far, is from flushing the toilet. Luckily we've had a bunch of rain and live in a place where it only gets below freezing for a few hours at night, if at all, so we've primarily been using collected rain water to flush when it's absolutely needed. Apparently Americans use 26. 7% of their potable water flushing the toilet.

This begs the question of why we aren't developing and widely using grey water systems, at least to flush the toilet, certainly we could use the water drained from the shower, washing machine and dishwater to flush the toilet. Why in the midst of an historic drought don't we see rain barrels at each and every house? Think of the water saved just in our little community if everyone who owned a home or rented a house collected rain water to use for flushing their toilets! The conservation would be staggering, even if just done on a small scale.

Over the Christmas holiday, I ask you to be mindful each and every time you use water. Whisper a prayer for those billions of people who suffer without adequate water and sanitation each time you turn on the faucet, shower, flush, wash dishes or do laundry. And I challenge you as we enter the new year, to buy or make some rain barrels. Even if you don't want to use that water for flushing everyday, pick one day a week to turn off your toilet and flush with something other than drinkable water for that one day. Lastly, if you are on city or county water I urge you to to donate the monetary savings from your conservation efforts to charities whose aims are pointed towards creating greater access to potable water and improving hygiene. Just a brief list of possible places to donate:
Water Aid America
Charity: water (which uses 100% of donations towards their goals of building wells in underdeveloped countries, relying on private donations and sponsor ships for travel and overhead expenses--and has a set up to send a $20 Christmas e-card letting someone know you've made a donation on their behalf. The video in this post is from them)

Statistics in this post pulled from here and here.


  1. I agree. We don't know how fortunate we are. A friend of mine, who grew up in Zimbabwe, told me that they always used the bath water etc to flush the toilets. No big deal for them. :-)

  2. PS - That was me (Kat from CF) with my now activated Google account. Sorry didn't mean to confuse :-)

  3. I'm with you- we got into some really good habits with our water before we moved into our new house (collecting water from showers and hand washing to use for flushing) but we got out of it during the moving/settling in period and never got back to it. Thanks for the reminder.

    You know, even just NOT FLUSHING so often saves us a lot here- but that is still frowned upon by some people. "If it's yellow, let it mellow..." :)

  4. LOL "If it's brown, flush it down!!"