J500 Media and the Environment

Water: the liquid of our lives by bpirotte

1 in 8 people don't have access to clean drinking water. Photo by Wespionage on Flickr

I hear cars sloshing around the puddles that fill the unnaturally high amount of potholes that spot Lawrence streets outside my window.

I take a sip of the Brita-filtered water that fills my glass next to my computer.

I hear the flow of the water through the pipes of the incredibly thin walls of my apartment building while my roommate takes a shower.

But do I actually sit back and think about where this water is coming from? Do I realize that 1 in 8 people has to live without clean drinking water? I take for granted that when I turn on my sink, clean, drinkable water will flow. I even complain when it takes too long to achieve that perfect temperature.

With World Water Day just a few days ago, it seems relevant to talk about one of the most important issues that plagues our planet today. While we in developed countries take it for granted that our government will take care of our water, and with the taxes we pay, give us the cleanest, safest, and best access to water wherever we are, many developing countries throughout the world are not given that luxury. As Americans, on average, we consume about 400 liters of water per day. In desert cities like Phoenix, Arizona, their consumption increases up to about 1,000 liters to keep their lawns looking like they live in Ireland. Comparatively, in third world countries such as Mozambique, the average use is just 10 liters. And that 10 liters probably isn’t even safe to drink.

So, how are we, as a world of only 2.5% freshwater, going to deal with world water shortages, and give access to those who don’t already have clean drinking water? There are many solutions out there, but there are some you can do at home that will help you and the whole world.

Conserve your own water. While you probably don’t think you’ll be able to make that trip to Mozambique to help install a well for a poor area in the bush anytime soon, you can conserve your own water usage by doing a few things:

  • Take a shorter shower.
  • Fill the sink to wash your dishes instead of individually rinsing them.
  • Keep a pitcher of water in your fridge. That way, you won’t have to wait impatiently for the sink to make ice-cold water.
  • If you live in a climate that can’t naturally support an English garden, maybe it’s time you gave up that green lawn. Places like Phoenix and Los Angeles were never meant to look like Seattle. Maybe designing a desert garden could be a good alternative.
  • Learn about your world. Without access to clean, safe, drinking water, many of those you share this big planet with are actually dying. Understanding their plight could help motivate you to stop running the faucet while brushing your teeth.
  • Never think you can’t make a difference.

–Ben P.


6 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Great post!
I like the tips that you’ve provided for us “everyday consumers”. I think that they are all very attainable, but the one that holds me up is giving up the green lawn.
I love spring because of the flowers and green lawns everywhere. It makes me happy when I walk outside after a long and dreary winter. I think that green grass is also a social prestige. Having a green lawn was a big deal growing up, the dads in our neighborhood would patronize one another about the greenness of their lawns. The slacker of the neighborhood couldn’t hide his unattained green lawn and would get teased for it until it met the green lawn standards of the neighborhood. What do you think it would take to persuade people to “go brown” with their lawns?
-Becca N.

Comment by beccan


I get the idea about having a green lawn, but personally have always hated mowing. In all seriousness, though, if your climate can handle it, having a green lawn is completely acceptable. Even in places like Kansas (especially eastern), you probably don’t need to worry about wasting a whole lot of water to keep your lawn green as compared to someone in Arizona or Southern California. I think it will take making certain water use very expensive, so that people will really understand what it is actually costing to take a 30 minute shower, or have the greenest lawn in the neighborhood, or wash the car once a week with the hose, because their water bill will show it. If people can’t actually feel directly the consequences, I don’t think they will change.
–Ben P.

Comment by bpirotte

One of my roommates has recently decided that all dishes in our house absolutely must be individually rinsed in the sink, and THEN put in the dishwasher. It drives me insane. One thing you could also point out is the economic benefit to an individual who takes some of these conservation steps. I have had plenty of neighbors in the past who have probably seen their water bills skyrocket due to the constant need to water their lawns, and when you add commonplace habits like that to other examples that you listed, plus things like overuse of washing machines for clothes, some sweeping cuts to consumption habits could really benefit people. ~Ben C.

Comment by bendcohen

Ben, I completely agree. Showing people that they can save money is always a great way to make the message hit home. Does your roommate have a specific reason for his practices? They seem a little overkill to me.
–Ben P.

Comment by bpirotte


Great post! I loved that we got to watch the documentary Flow in class the other day. Two days later, I was chatting with a TA in my Environmental Policy class and he told me that there isn’t a single water station in Kansas with water quality high enough to meet EPA standards! I was shocked. I know big ag states have a reputation for having lower water quality, due to run off from factory farms and chemical sprayed on fields… but I couldn’t believe that Kansas didn’t have a single site that stacked up to what the EPA thinks is safe! I am wondering, what do you think can be done to help get the word out better about the importance of water? -Kristina B

Comment by kristinabev

Kristina, That is a scary statistic. I think that the EPA (or some organization) needs to go on a massive PR sweet to inform and warn the public. I don’t think it would take long for people to realize the importance water has always had in our lives, and the importance clean and safe water has in our future.
–Ben P.

Comment by bpirotte

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