by Robin McKillop
Today is World Water Day. First declared in 1993, World Water Day has been observed every March 22 for the past 20 years. Recognizing that the fulfillment of basic human needs, our environment, socio-economic development and poverty reduction are heavily dependent on water, the United Nations declared 2013 as the International Year of Water Cooperation. The objective is to raise awareness of the potential for, and value of, increased cooperation in relation to water.
In many parts of the world, there is no indoor plumbing and people must travel long distances each day to get water. This chore falls mainly on women and girls who walk an average of 3.7 miles a day, carrying loads of 40 pounds in order to obtain water for their families. This job can take as long as six hours per day even though an average person in sub-Saharan Africa uses only about four gallons of water per day. Unfortunately, the daily chore of finding and transporting water often takes the place of education or other opportunities.
In the United States and other developed countries, technology has made using water very easy. We turn on the tap and clean water pours out, seemingly in an endless supply. A complex system of pipes, storage tanks, treatment plants and pumps is used to treat and deliver water to our homes, businesses, parks and institutions every day. In large part these systems are invisible to many of us. We don’t need to think about where our water comes from or where it goes after we use it. We just count on it being there when we need it.
This ease of use has resulted in a drastic increase in the amount of water we use today as compared to 100 years ago. Back in the “old days” many people had to pump and haul their own water for washing, cooking, bathing and other needs, creating a built-in incentive towards strict conservation. These days, the use of water is made even easier with appliances taking over chores like laundry and dishwashing. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that on average a person in the United States today consumes about 100 gallons of water per day. The good news is that progress has been made over the past 40 years in stretching our water supplies through water conservation efforts and the introduction of new technologies like high-efficiency toilets, low-flow showerheads, and front-loading clothes washers.
Here in Marin, we are fortunate to enjoy a reliable supply of high quality water and a strong conservation ethic. Please show your support for World Water Day by taking action to conserve water, both today and beyond. Visit the official World Water Day website for additional information about the importance of freshwater and the need for sustainable management of freshwater resources.