Throughout the course of my day, I consume and use water more times than I can count. Never once do I have to do more than turn on a faucet or worry about whether the water I am drinking is safe. This is not the case for 633 to 783 million people in the world.
Water has been called the “world’s most precious commodity,” but the sad reality is that clean water is not accessible to one out of nine people who live in the world. This lack of safe water affects women and children most of all. The diseases associated with it causes children to miss about 443 million school days a year. In some places, women have to walk up to seven miles a day to get water for their families. Occasionally, this necessary task comes at a risk to the women’s safety and health as they could be attacked while traveling or have to carry home heavy jugs of water.
Lack of clean water, among other sanitation factors, cause 88 percent of deaths by diseases related to diarrhea, with as many as 90 percent of these deaths preventable by clean water and improved means of sanitation.
Over spring break, I had the opportunity to travel to Guatemala and experience the water crisis first hand. As a part of Living Water International, a Christian organization that is dedicated to providing safe water, I helped drill a well and teach hygiene to a community of about 500 people in rural Guatemala. The community had water sources, but the water was unclean. Our team was able to install a fresh water pump well that changed that, and with it my perspective on water.
Once we hit water, we used an air compressor to flush out any of the impurities that may have gotten into the water source as a result of us drilling. Since our drilling took place at a school, we were able to play with the children in the clean water. Soon after we finished playing, the children were dismissed for the day. As our team prepared to eat lunch, I saw Kimberli, a girl I had gotten to know, stop by the barrels full of clean water, drip her hand in and take a drink before dashing off home on her bike. For the first time in her life, Kimberli had a drink of safe water.
The fact that I can go to a faucet anywhere and get clean water is incredible. We have even developed preferences for how we choose to drink our water. True, some water sources are filtered better than others, but until you have seen a child drink out of a watering trough that has mold on the bottom of it – the same watering trough where they get the water necessary to flush their toilets and wash their hands – you have no concept of what dirty water actually is.
I’m not asking you to go to another country and drill a well. I’m not asking you to donate to an organization that is working to get clean water to every person in the world. I’m not even asking you to conserve the water you have. I’m just asking you to be aware and allow that awareness to change you.