Water, Water every where, Nor any drop to drink

In the Rime of the Ancient Mariner[1] , the narrator describes the lack of drinkable water while sailing on an ocean of salt water. 

The lack of available safe, drinkable water can result from many causes: drought, when there simply is no available water; polluted water resulting from toxic waste and agricultural pesticides; water polluted as a result of inadequate treatment of sewage from human and animal waste and water that is too salty to drink.    

 

Here in the Midwest, water surrounds us.  We have lakes, rivers and streams. We swim in it, bathe in it, freely water our lawns and gardens with it, and simply admire it.  But we are lucky.

Even in parts of the U.S., water is precious.  But while water it California and other western states can be expensive, it is still available.  In agricultural areas, particularly in areas of Texas, ponds may have plentiful water in the spring but dry by late summer.  

In times of drought, the lack of water can ruin a crop or cause ranchers to sell off portions of their herds.  Even then, safe water is almost universally available in the United States for human consumption.   

 World-wide, there is a different story.  Roughly 10% to 11% of the world’s population, between 783 million to 1 billion people, does not have access to safe water[2].  In the developing world, 90% of sewage is discharged untreated into rivers[3].  1.4 million children die every year as a result of diseases caused by unclean water and poor sanitation.  This amounts to around 4,000 deaths a day[4].  The death rate from lack of safe water is greater than the death rate from war.  The lack of water, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa also results in crop failures, frequent famines and also a significant factor in the loss of life of humans and animals.

 In The World is Hot, Flat and Crowded, Thomas Freidman quotes Michael J. Sandel, a political philosopher at Harvard that: “’We have a responsibility to preserve the earth’s resources and natural wonders in and of themselves’ because they constitute the very web of life on which all living creatures on this planet depend.” 

 Clean water is not a partisan issue.  It is not an issue that appeals only to those who are “left leaning” or “right leaning”.  It is a human issue.  We can clean water, dig wells to make it accessible, install pipes and faucets to move it around and make it easy to control the flow and movement of water.  Most of all, we can care about the people for whom the availability of water is a life–and death–challenge.

 ____________________

Our opinions, are our opinions alone, and do not represent the opinions of our employers, our friends, our relatives, our husbands, or even each other.   


[1] Rime of the Ancient Mariner, by English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, published in 1798

[2] WHO/UNICEF, WaterAid, Water.Org.

[3] UN

[4] WHO

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