Water And Oceanography

How do Individual Conservation Efforts Affect Worldwide Availability of Drinking Water



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What other species in the planet drinks anything other than plain old rainwater? We have fizzy, natural, mineral, tap, filtered and flavoured. And despite, or is it because of, the choice we waste it! Perhaps if we only had the original we'd appreciate it more.

Availability of a product dictates the degree of our desire for greater quality. Ample availability raises our levels of fussiness, socially obliging us to insist on variety, novelty and exclusivity. Eventually the item loses its intrinsic materialistic value to us and we start wasting it, seemingly oblivious in the case of water, to the essence of its vitality to us.

Does it really matter whether your mineral water is French or Scottish? I sometimes think 'they' started the Bottled Water Argument just to distract us from the "Acid Rain Argument". Let's face it, whatever its provenance, whether it is bottled ethically and has low food miles, it still won't travel the number of miles a typical African walks in a lifetime of fetching water.

Perhaps if we didn't boil it to make hot drinks we'd use fewer resources, which would cause less global warming? Or maybe if we didn't drink tea, coffee and cocoa we'd not use up overseas resources in cultivating land? But what employment would all those tea pickers and coffee plantation workers have if we didn't buy their produce?

The sales from such endeavours help contribute to wells and tapped water in villages previously without such essentials. To our shame one has to ask why, when we have access to sanitation systems that are the envy of billions of people in developing countries, do we need to have signs to remind us to wash our hands in public places. Have we really reached such a state of indulgent lassitude that we need to be told to do something that children overseas would delight in doing?

Washing hands with soap and water reduces diarrhoeal disease by over 40%. So why do we have so much television advertising for medicines to stop an avoidable disease? Is being dirty our hidden national disgrace? According to UK WaterAids website (www.wateraid.org.uk) 884 million people are without access to clean water. That's to drink, not to bathe in. We laugh over the days when great grandma washed the kids in the bath, then used the same water for herself rather than fetch and boil more from the well in the garden. People abroad are still living those days. Only they don't have wells at the end of their street, much less their garden.

We moan in Britain because the local councils have shut down thousands of public toilets. We grumble at having to pay far more than a penny to 'go'. It doesn't occur to us to consider the 2.5 billion people who don't have somewhere safe, private or hygienic to go to the toilet on a daily basis much less a day trip. Maybe the next time we use free facilities we could put the money aside for a water focused charity? It would soon add up. Especially if you kept neglecting to wash your hands ...

And hands up all those self-conscious ladies who flush first so as to create a discreet wall of water sound to shield any unfeminine noises they might be about to emit? Especially in en-suite hotel rooms if the air conditioning doesn't automatically switch on with the bathroom light. But how do we equate or justify single and short flushes marring the end of a romantic evening to preventing one child every seventeen seconds dying of a preventable water-borne disease? By the time you blow the candles out on your romantic dinner there's going to be a lot more little corpses out there however many times you flush. Perhaps you could skip dessert and put aside the cash for charity?

So now I find myself wondering "How many hotel taps have I not turned off properly?" Maybe I should be more conscientious and complain to management whenever I encounter dripping taps. But why hasn't anybody else bothered? Apathy again!

Westerners are frequently encourage to think twice when brushing or flushing but we never get told to eat less meat despite commercial food production's vast water consumption. Should obese people have guiltier consciences for having purchased more than their share of water-expensive goods?

Farmers are told to maximise productivity per acre but have you ever seen how much a cow drinks in a day? My pet horse can down up to 50 litres a day in summer and she is neither kept as a beast of burden or source of sustenance.

I think that whichever Indian God or Guru dictated that Hindus wouldn't eat beef because cows were sacred was extraordinarily perceptive and far thinking. India may have a lot of cows now but I bet it's not a fraction of how many the Western world breed to eat.

Talking of health, why hasn't any scientist asked for funding to research the possible links between dehydration, mental health issues and the number of civil wars and political unrest in African countries?

The brain is composed of 85% water. Dehydration causes any combination of headaches, irritability, intolerance, irrational thoughts, unreasonable behaviour and a whole host of other negative emotions. Is that why Africa has so many wars which waste both existing water and prevent charities from helping take water to those who need it the most?

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