The daily action or inaction of each individual across the globe has a continual and exponential effect on the earth's ability to remain sustainable. The excess consumption of valuable natural resources occurring in developed countries has a direct impact on the growth and sustainability of underdeveloped countries.
"Sustainable development encourages us to conserve and enhance our resource base, by gradually changing the ways in which we develop and use technologies. Countries must be allowed to meet their basic needs of food, energy, water and sanitation." (sustainable-environment.org)
Currently, across the globe, approximately one out of six people do not have access to clean drinking water. Tens of thousands of people suffer daily due to illness, disease and death caused by the ingestion of dirty water. We are in the midst of a global water crisis and most of us don't even know it.
In many countries water is easily and readily available. Due to this easy access, water is perceived as a free and unlimited resource. The fact is water is a necessary life sustaining compound required by every living thing on the planet. Yet, clean safe water for drinking, cooking and washing is taken for granted on a daily basis by millions of people.
What we fail to consider when we buy a bottle of water, cook our food, brush our teeth or hop in the shower is that at that same moment somewhere on the other side of the world another person is ill or dying because of the lack of clean drinking water in their community. People in underdeveloped countries are dying every day with the majority of them being children under the age of five. Women and young girls are forced to walk for miles to reach scarce and mainly polluted water sources. They fill large containers with the dirty water and then carry them back home for the purpose of washing, cleaning and drinking. So much time and effort is spent on the day-to-day survival that there is a lack of time, education, finances and resources to tackle the problem of access to clean drinking water.
In developed nations the necessary effort that each of us puts forth to conserve water and prevent unnecessary waste can have immense financial and environmental impacts across the globe. Here are just a few ways in which developed countries are affecting the global water crisis and how we can reduce our water consumption on a daily basis:
Water Bottles: Did you know that it takes over 3 liters of water to make 1 liter of bottled water? The amount of waste created by the production and subsequent purchase of water bottles in developed countries is monumental and unnecessary. In 2006, in the United States alone, over 31 billion water bottles were purchased.
By forgoing the purchase of water bottles and choosing to use environmentally friendly re-usable drinking containers you are contributing to a sustainable future for generations to come. If we were to discontinue the production and utilization of water bottles, the result would be a savings of billions of liters of water a year.
Technology: Current environmental conservation efforts and technological innovations directly impact our daily choices. From doing the laundry to purchasing new appliances, there are numerous cost effective strategies that can assist us in conserving water.
Low flow shower heads, toilets and faucet fixtures can preserve over 45 gallons of water per household per day. Cutting back time spent in the shower by 5 only minutes can save up to 40 gallons of water a day. Filling up the dishwasher and running it once per day can preserve 12 gallons of water a day. When purchasing a new washing machine or dishwasher choose one that is energy and water efficient. This will save gallons upon gallons of wasted water every year. Raising the blades on the lawn mower to 2 inches will allow grass to retain moisture resulting in a reduced need to water the lawn.
All of the above proactive measures can save on average 100 gallons of water per day per household. Multiply this by 365 days per year and savings increase to 36,500 gallons of water per year. Multiply this by one million households and the result is a staggering 35,000,000,000 gallons of conserved water.
Dietary Habits: Our daily dietary decisions also have an impact on the global water crisis. Three quarters of the world's waters is utilized by farmers across the globe every year.
"To grow a kilogram of wheat requires around 1,000 liters of water. But it takes as much as 15,000 liters of water to produce a kilogram of beef. The meaty diet of Americans and Europeans requires around 5,000 liters of water a day to produce. In 1985 Chinese people ate, on average, 20kg of meat; this year, they will eat around 50kg. This difference translates into 390km3 (1km3 is 1 trillion liters) of wateralmost as much as the total amount of water used in Europe." (Economist.com)
Buying locally, reducing meat intake and growing a vegetable garden can assist in saving water.
Education: Education is the key to implementing long term global changes. Incorporating environmental awareness into school age curriculum as well as university and college curriculum is necessary to support change and create a deeper understanding of how our actions and choices affect the world population and ultimately the stability of the environment. Most people are not aware of how a water bottle, washing machine or farming techniques affect the global population or environment.
As an individual, a society and country we are defined by the choices we make. Our solitary efforts collectively add up and when we consistently make well-educated choices we can create positive and powerful changes around the world. Whether we know it or not, when we choose on a daily basis to conserve water we are choosing to save lives.