How would you feel if you weren't able to have a sanitary place to go to the bathroom? If you didn't have access to clean, safe, drinking water? For people who do have access to these things it can be hard to understand how lucky we are. Not everyone in the world has access to clean water and sanitation, but there is enough water in the world today to prevent that.
The sixth Sustainable Development Goal is Clean Water and Sanitation, the aim being to "Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all."
Provided that access to clean water and sanitation is a human right -- shouldn't everyone in the world already have access to it? Unfortunately, that's not the case. Here are some statistics released in the United Nations report on the Clean Water and Sanitation Global Goal. Around 1.8 billion people globally use a source of drinking water that is fecally contaminated. Some 2.4 billion people lack access to basic sanitation services, such as toilets or latrines. Water scarcity affects more than 40 per cent of the global population and is projected to rise. More than 80 per cent of wastewater resulting from human activities is discharged into rivers or sea without any treatment, leading to pollution.
Many of the diseases that are lethal can be prevented if individuals living in developing nations without access to these services were provided with them. What we can see is that water and sanitation-related diseases remain among the major causes of death in children under five. It's also clear that achieving this goal is vital in achieving many of the other Sustainable Development Goals. Helping people spend time getting educated instead of fetching it, and without human waste going into water ecosystems, and increased sustainability ecologically.
Let's talk about one of the ways water impacts a community. When communities lack the access to clean water sources, it's young girls who will have to walk long distances regularly and ultimately miss school. It's from small changes like these that induce gender inequality, and we begin to see a gap not only in access -- but how girls and women are prioritized as well.
The United Nations estimates that sub-Saharan Africa alone loses 40 billion hours per year collecting water; the same as an entire year's labor in all of France. Those hours could be spent doing so many other things -- including educating the people and other forms of labour that will increase economic growth in that region.
Though those aren't the only issues regarding clean water and sanitation, I believe it's very important for individuals to understand this issue, and ultimately, contribute to resolving it. Here are some of the ways you can help make this goal a reality.
Learning about the reality of our world's water crisis will help you gain a better understanding of it, and ultimately want to change the reality. When you take the time to read about this crisis, you will want to share what it is that you've learned with the people around you, and you'll want to do all you can to help. It doesn't even have to be a whole lot, taking the opportunity to do a quick search online, or reading a book or two about it will help, but keeping your eyes open for more information will also be very helpful.
Here are some links to help you begin your research:
2. Save your own water
We only have a limited amount of this resource, and that's not something to be taken lightly. The world's supply of freshwater will be something of great value in the future as we run out of it. What you can do now is save your water. Turning off the tap when you brush your teeth, using energy-efficient dishwashers and washing machines, limiting the length of your showers, etc. are all ways you can help save the water you have. While you become more informed about the water issue, you can learn more about ways you can reduce your water usage as well. If the number of individuals (including you) taking part in these water saving activities increases collectively, then our supply of water will be prolonged, and natural replacement of this resource will help it last forever.
3. Stand up for a cause
There are so many organizations all around the world that work with water-related issues. If you just pick one of them, and choose to donate or support them through their endeavours, you will be doing your part in helping to make this goal a reality. Sometimes even the smallest contributions are all these organizations and initiatives need to move foreword. You can help bridge the gap between their vision, and their vision becoming a reality. Here are some links to organizations that you can get involved with, but the list is definitely not limited to these few causes.
I'd like to finish with stating that there are so many ways to get involved in helping solve this issue. My aim was to give a brief overview of the issue and provide a brief overview of what people can do to help resolve the issue. Without caring individuals, and organizations that work to keep governments accountable for resolving this issue too, millions of people will continue to die from lack of sanitation and clean-water related diseases every year. If you have any more ideas, or would like to share more information regarding this issue, please feel free to comment below.
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If you only have five minutes to spare, Ryan Mulligan recommends cutting back on your showers. "Take shorter showers. Most people think they won't have enough time but try taking a shower under five minutes," he says. On average, if you take a five minute shower everyday for a month, you can save up to 3,800 litres of water in your household.
Drip. Drip. Drip. That annoying sound of dripping water that wakes you up in the middle of the night could be wasting about 90 litres of water, according to Mulligan. In five hours, try fixing all your leaks around the house or install a water-saving faucet.
Try a vegetarian dish! A week is a lot of time to save water and for five days, Mulligan thinks we should be thinking bigger. "Go meatless for five days. From start to finish, it takes a lot of water to grow crops that feed animals to cleaning meat before you eat it," he says. A piece of steak for example, from start to finish, can use up to 7,000 litres of water.
Five weeks gives you enough time to update key areas in your home. Get a rain water barrel and use collected rain water to water your garden and plants, Mulligan says. He also recommends letting your grass grow a little longer before mowing the lawn to avoid over-watering your greens.
In five months, there's a lot you can do to save water. For starters, putting a brick into your toilet tank can increase your tank's water level and decrease the amount of water that's being used during flushing, Mulligan says. His team also encourages Canadians to dig a little deeper into the impacts of water in developing countries and read a little bit more about how scarce and limited water is for many countries.
Follow Maryam Rehman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/m_n_rehman