As World Water Week winds down, I headed out with my wife for dinner to honor the UNICEF Tap Project as we have for the last three years, only to notice that no restaurants were participating (something I am committed to change next year).
So we headed north to a place in Los Angeles. There was not much to do during the drive but listen to the heavy rain hit the car's roof, which connects me effortlessly to water.
So can we simply talk about water?
World Water Day on March 22 grew out of the 1992 U.N. Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro, an annual event that focuses on the importance of the sustainable management of freshwater resources. The year 2005 marked the start of the U.N. International Decade for Action on water.
"Clean water is essential, yet nearly 900 million people worldwide lack access to it, and nearly half of those people are children," according to UNICEF. "Every day, 22,000 children die of preventable causes, and UNICEF is committed to do whatever it takes to make that number zero."
UNICEF is working to halve the number of people without access to safe water and basic sanitation by 2015. UNICEF's Tap Project asks restaurant patrons to donate a dollar for the glass of water they usually get for free.
"Unless more sustainable water resource management practices are adopted by companies and individuals, almost half of the global economy, and more than half of the world's population, will be exposed to severe water scarcity by 2050," according to Veolia Water's website.
Freshwater is not only used for producing food and energy; it is also used to produce goods. That morning coffee you had today has a water footprint close to 40 gallons, and it takes about 1,800 gallons of water to grow enough cotton to produce those jeans you wear.
To assess your own unique water footprint, you can use the water footprint calculator available on Water Footprint Network's website.
The network wants to promote sustainable, fair and efficient use of freshwater resources worldwide by increasing awareness of how consumption of goods and services and production chains relate to water use and impacts on fresh-water systems, according to its website.
Fortunately, there are some things we can do to reduce our water footprint, starting with conservation. Water Sense, an Environmental Protection Agency program, recommends replacing toilets that are from 1992 or earlier because they use 3.5 gallons per flush. Their website, http://www.epa.gov/watersense, is a good place to visit if you are willing to make a few small changes to your daily routine.
There are two notices related to water published this week I want to share.
First, Stephen Carpenter, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has been named the 2011 Stockholm Water Prize laureate, according to the Stockholm International Water Institute's website. His research demonstrates how lake ecosystems are affected by the surrounding landscape and by human activities.
The second is the Solarball, a water purifier came to my attention in an e-mail from a friend from the water district.
The Solarball looks like a toy but has the potential to save lives. It was developed as a sustainably viable solution for the 900 million people who don't have access to clean water. The device, which takes advantage of the sun's natural purifying abilities, can produce up to three liters of clean water a day. The invention was a finalist in the 2011 Australian Design Awards and will be exhibited at the Milan International Design Fair in April.
If for a brief moment perhaps, we actually connected on water issues, you made my day.
A buck for glass of water seems to be drop in a larger problem, but for the lives you touch that drop can make a huge difference.
GUSTAVO GRAD is a Laguna Beach resident and certified sustainable building advisor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.