Tuesday, March 23, 2010

World Water Day

Every year, March 22nd is set aside at the United Nations and around the world to focus on the importance of having fresh water. It's an amazing fact to realize that more than half of the world's people don't have access to clean water. World Water Day 2010 has the theme of "Clean Water for a Healthy World." (That link will take you to UN Water's website, well worth checking out.)

When I worked for the Environmental and Societal Impacts Group in Boulder, part of my job for over a decade was to create a 16-page quarterly newsletter filled with information that would be important to those interested in climate-related impact assessments. I had to write in a very dry and impassive fashion for this newsletter. Here's a link to a PDF of one of those newsletters, if you're interested (I'm not sure I would be, so don't feel bad if you don't go there. Won't hurt MY feelings.) But some places I visited for articles were the United Nations websites, because they have a very good collection of what's going on in the world of impact assessment. That's where I learned about World Water Day.

I learned also that in the future, water is more than likely to be a source of major worldwide conflict, because as we humans degrade more and more of the world's water, ramifications are felt throughout the entire ecosystem. According to the World Health Organization, each year an estimated 4 billion people get diarrhea as a result of drinking unsafe water. More than half of them die, mostly children under the age of five. This has been going on for a long, long time, but it's getting worse.

Those of us living in the United States think we're doing a good thing for ourselves by drinking a whole lot of bottled water. But we're not, actually. Did you know that the USA is the largest consumer market for bottled water in the world? Bottled Water has its own Wikipedia page, and is a very interesting read. It's scary, though: it can make you wonder whether you're paying too much for something that isn't necessarily better for you than what comes out of your tap. Not to mention the plastic from 50 billion bottles of water that are consumed each year, just here in the USA.

When I lived in Boulder, we went to a local natural spring and filled several five-gallon jugs with Eldorado Natural Spring Water, partly because I loved the taste of it, and partly because I didn't like the chlorinated stuff that came out of the tap. Here in Bellingham, we use a Brita filter for water from the tap and the water is fine, although not as tasty as what I was used to in Boulder. Some people think that you are better off not filtering your drinking water, since you lose some of the natural minerals in the water. But you know, that might have been true before the world had so many people. I don't think there are many places in the world where the water is actually drinkable without some kind of processing. Do you drink bottled water?


  1. I think bottled water is the biggest scam this country ever had. They have done undercover studies that many times it is just tap water in a plastic bottle. What a shame all those plastic bottles will now end up in our environment, when people could have just taken tap water in a thermos or lightweight, reusuable container instead of purchasing those millions and millions of bottled water bottles.

  2. I'm using Brita too. Don't think it takes out the chlorine though. We should be thinking more about the topic of water, and finding solutions for all.
    I'm hearing that all the anti-bacterial soaps used here in the US are affecting both water and fish, and anti-bacterial soaps are not used in Australia...banned.
    Great post!

  3. Something I use when we travel: I just HAVE to drink coffee when I wake up and so we travel with our own coffee! Sometimes though, one of us will get thirsty and actually drink the bottled water we bought for the coffee the night before! (Imagine!)
    SO! I like to 'set the pot up' before I go to bed so my lazy butt only has to flick a switch in the morning and if you pour tap water into a container and leave it to air for overnight, the chlorine will all evaporate and your coffee in the morning at least tastes like it's brewed with un-chlorinated water. I find that a Britta doesn't remove the bleach smell, but this works!
    It also works when your houseplants are getting burnt edges from the tap water.
    As for home, we have one of those fancy-schmancy fridges with the water thingy in it.
    My dream is to install a whole home water system when we move. About $750.00 up here.

  4. I read today that more people die from access to lack of clean water than from all forms of violence in a years time. We take water for granted. We need reminders more often on water preservation. I refuse to buy bottled water. I use my refillable stainless steel bottle. I also use a Pur filter for our tap water.

  5. we do (drink bottled water) here in Alicante because the tap water is heavily chlorinated and just tastes... ugh! but it is perfectly drinkable and I drank it just fine before my parents moved to Spain and started buying the bottled stuff. But recently we've switched to a Brita filter as well

    as for processing, isn't there some kind of processing that takes place before it enters the drinkable water circuits in each city?

  6. You are so full of knowledge, you amaze me. This was very interesting. After I just wrote a post about my washing machine and laundry and now I feel so dumb.
    No I don't drink bottled water. I have a water filter in my refrigerator that needs to be replaced. Also have a Brita filter. I agree that bottled water is a waste of money.

  7. I drink bottled water only on jets and when I am on a tour. Water in Honolulu is sweeter than that in Thailand, California, New York City, and Europe -- places where I have lived.

  8. Wow. That's quite an undertaking. It had to take quite a bit of time to put that newsletter together every few months.

    I have a water filter on the fridge here which is where I get most of my water. I do keep bottled water on hand here for people to grab on the go. A package usually lasts a few months, if that tells you how rarely we use it. I recently read about the lack of regulations on bottled water. Bottled water is considered a food so it's regulated by the FDA, not the EPA. The EPA requires daily testing of water whereas the FDA requires yearly testing for bottled water. The article discussed where bottled water actually comes from; I was surprised to discover that about 1/4 of it comes from tap water.

    This is pretty interesting. I had no idea there was a world water day.

  9. thanks for this post - fascinating!

    i thought you might enjoy these images from the big picture: http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2010/03/water.html


  10. After reading about bottled water and the cost to the environment from the bottles alone, I stopped ever drinking it. I have a filter that I use for drinking or I just drink it from the tap. Our country is turning into one, big spoiled brat. No one wants to think about what we are doing to this earth. Americans think everything is ours for the taking and damn the rest of the world. Sometimes I am ashamed to be from the United States.

  11. I don't like to be a prophet of doom but I have long said the next world war will be fought over drinking water. And people will someday have to shoot their friends and neighbors to keep them from stealing their water supply. The Great Lakes is on the hit list of foreign governments now and it won't be long until some idiot in Washington gets the bright idea to begin selling water from the Great Lakes to countries around the world.

  12. We have our own well..I fill a reusable container..it tastes fine to me..but we should have it tested again:)

  13. Great post DJan. I rarely drink bottled water any more but occasionally buy a bottle when we are traveling. If possible I bring the bottle home and put it in our recyclables container, our city will take plastic bottles. Around the house or when I go out for the day I use a stainless steel bottle.

  14. I only drink bottled water when I have to. I prefer what comes out of the tap over here and in America actually. It tastes very good to me in either place and I prefer to drink it straight from the source rather than from a jug where it has been standing for up to 24 hours filtering. I never ever filter water. I can't see the point. Here in London our water is very hard, so hard that you almost need to descale ever week and that is good for me. It is like the sort of water you would get in Switzerland or in the Rockies I suppose.
    Blessings, Star


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