A four-minute shower in Europe or America uses about 30 gallons of water, far more than the average person living in extreme poverty uses in an entire day. In the West we never give clean water a thought. We have plenty of it for our pets, for our plants and for our yards. We wash our vehicles with it, we swim in it and we buy it and sell it. But shouldn’t we value human beings more than clean cars and green lawns?

We are a society that is obsessed with water. We carry bottles of it everywhere. We spend money on filters to enhance the taste and to remove impurities. We have flavored water and water fortified with vitamins. We have our own swimming pools. We have 2 or 3 toilets in our homes each using 5 to 7 gallons of water with each flush. In the United States the average household uses about 125,000 gallons of water a year, which is 340 gallons a day. People struggling in extreme poverty try to survive on 5 to 10 gallons a day.

For the poorest one billion people the problem is not just a lack of water, it is also the safety of the water that is available. Unsafe water and improper sanitation are the leading causes of illness in the world. Waterborne diseases are responsible for the deaths of 1,500,000 children each year. More than 4,000 children die each day because of unsafe water and lack of proper sanitation. 90% of all deaths from diarrhea diseases are children under the age of five. An infant in sub-Saharan Africa is more than 500 times as likely to die from a diarrhea disease as a child in the United States. Children under the age of 15 account for more than 80% of all water related deaths, and developing nations sustain more than 95% of all the world’s water related deaths. These are preventable deaths. They do not have to occur. With proper funding and education we can begin to save these lives immediately.

Water is so prevalent in our society that we take it for granted. However, in many parts of the world their entire lives are focused on the lack of water and the danger to their health when they are forced to use unsafe water. The burden of attaining safe water falls primarily on women in developing nations. On average, females walk more than 3.5 miles a day carrying more than 5 gallons of water to provide enough for safe drinking and cleaning for their families. This daily endeavor takes so much time and physical effort that it severely limits their available time for education or employment.

It is often stated that people don’t have access to clean water because of where they happen to live. Either the climate is too harsh or the terrain is too rough. But these are obstacles that can be overcome. If there were vast sums of money to be made by supplying the water it would happen. Las Vegas is a perfect example. Although isolated in the desert, it is a city that consumes enormous amounts of water because it helps to generate income for the casinos. Isn’t saving lives as important as making money? Isn’t providing clean water to save the life of a child just as worthy of our best efforts as enabling people to play slot machines 24 hours a day? Here in the West we have huge water based theme parks for our families to enjoy. This is another example of the way we exploit our abundance of water for profit, which proves that there always seems to be plenty of water available when there is money to be made. Are we going to continue to be a society that only acknowledges the value of something when there is profit to be had?

One billion people, about one out of every six, have limited access to safe water, and about one in eight people, or more than 875,000,000, have a severe lack of access to safe water. In sub-Saharan Africa less than 38% of the population has access to proper sanitation, and about 2,000,000 tons of raw sewage and liquid waste pours into the world’s water everyday. The unavailability of safe water is a prime example of the unfairness of extreme poverty. It is the most basic of necessities and yet for millions it is out of reach. To be forced to use unclean water that can make your children deathly ill is not a choice you should have to make.

We cannot continue to allow human beings to struggle in life threatening situations with no hope of improvement. Providing safe, clean water to the one billion people in extreme poverty has to be our highest priority. Water is not a luxury you can do without. Water is not a political tool. Water is not a weapon of war. Water is not something that should be priced out of the reach of the masses. Access to clean water is the right of every human being on earth. It is absolutely necessary to sustain life and good health and it should be readily available to everyone, everywhere, all of the time. We can make that happen. It is within our power, right now, to start saving lives by providing clean water to those who need it. We must educate the public so they truly understand that unsafe water kills.






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