Photograph by Color China Photo/AP
Our connection to this precious natural resource is clear—the human body is nearly 70 percent water. Without water to drink, a person could die of dehydration in a matter of days, even hours.
Yet access to a source of clean drinking water is not a given around the globe. Nearly a billion people are lacking safe drinking water, and 2.7 billion are lacking adequate sanitation. By some accounts, 800 people die every day from waterborne diseases.
Access is a complicated issue, often influenced by politics, economics, climate, and social structure. In some developing countries where there is no plumbing infrastructure, water is sold from trucks by entrepreneurs for inflated prices. Or people have to walk for miles to collect water from distant lakes and streams, or groundwater pumps.
In other areas, water is rationed because of drought. In many regions, the resource is subsidized and consumers never know the real costs associated with turning on the faucet.
Even worse, bottled water is promoted as a solution, when the environmental costs of plastic and pumping are generally much higher that the traditional tap.
Some people simply can't take a clean glass of H20, or a toilet, for granted.
- 40 percent of people in Africa lack access to clean drinking water; 53 percent in Asia.
- In many cities, 15-40 percent of water is lost to leaking pipes.
- New York City is investing some $1.5 billion to restore and protect the Catskills-Delaware watershed, which supplies 90 percent of its drinking water. The city has avoided construction of a $6 billion filtration plant that would cost an additional $300 million a year to operate.
Did You Know?In Quito, Ecuador, municipal water utilities and electric companies now pay nearly $1 million a year into a fund used to protect the watersheds that supply the city’s two million residents with 80 percent of their water. Started in 2000 in partnership with the Nature Conservancy, Quito’s water fund has become a model for other Latin American cities, including Cuenca, Ecuador, and Lima, Peru.
More About Drinking Water and Sanitation
For much of the world, drinking a glass of water is not as easy as filling up at a water cooler or even the kitchen sink.
Some unusual ingredients, from heroin and cinnamon to rocket fuel and birth control, are lurking in the world's freshwater supplies.
As sugary sodas fizzle in schools, kids are turning to bottled water instead of tap water, which is often contaminated by lead. But that may put an added strain on the environment, experts say.
The choice you make is more important than you might think!
Help Save the Colorado River
You can help restore freshwater ecosystems by pledging to cut your water footprint. For every pledge, Change the Course will restore 1,000 gallons back to the Colorado River.
Sandra is a leading authority on international freshwater issues and is spearheading our global freshwater efforts.
He's paddled the Colorado River from its headwaters to the delta, in an effort to bring awareness to this mighty river at risk.
For more than 15 years, Osvel Hinojosa Huerta has been resurrecting Mexico's Colorado River Delta wetlands.
Change the Course Infographic
Check out this infographic and learn how you can conserve water and save the Colorado River, as well as other freshwater ecosystems.
Water Currents, by Sandra Postel and Others
Arizona's Verde River gets a boost from an innovative partnership.
Farmers in the Verde River Basin employ new technology to benefit a desert environment.
Funny new viral video series hopes to get people thinking about the importance of water.