Thursday, September 8, 2011

A Day Without Water

About this time last year I was getting ready to go on a short-term mission trip up into the Andes Mountains of Peru. I had been warned that we would be staying in primitive conditions and I packed my sleeping bag and air mattress. My room in the mountains ended up being a storage room with one little light bulb and nothing else electric. We had one regular toilet for all of us in a room with a dirt floor and without a door. There was one faucet that had freezing cold water coming out of it that we could boil and use to wash dishes. All the other water we used during our time up in the mountains was water we took up with us in huge containers. We cleaned our hands and our bodies with wipes (you know, like baby wipes) and we brushed our teeth with our bottled water, rinsing and spitting over a woodpile outside.

I have been to some developing countries before. I've been to some rural villages where, when you've gotta go, the bathroom facilities are little more than a whole in the ground. In fact, I've done that in at least 4 other countries. And, we're campers. Yes, we do have a travel trailer now but we used to be tent campers and we've roughed it a time or two. Going to the mountains in Peru and staying in a village was not the hardest thing I've ever done. But, I will admit, I was thrilled and thankful when we stopped at a hotel on the way down and I got to take a real shower, wash my hair for the first time in days, and even turn on water and wash my hands.

I know we take water for granted here in the United States. Just since I've been home from running this morning I've flushed my toilet, washed my hands more than once, gotten ice and water from my refrigerator, washed an apple, and started my washing machine. But, I've been thinking a lot about water lately. Maybe it's because we are in a drought here in Texas. Now we can only water our yards twice a week. I know in the northeast they are experiencing flooding and we would just like to have some rain. We are not to the point of desperation yet even though the lake is down and the creeks are dried up. We don't yet know what's really like to be without water.

Here's a few water facts I found on and

*884 million people worldwide lack access to safe water.
*Water-related diseases are the 2nd biggest killer of children worldwide. (I thought #1 would be hunger-related issues but it's not - it's acute respiratory infections, like TB)
*90% of water-related diseases have to do with unsafe water, sanitation, & hygiene. Most of the victims are children in developing countries.
*An average person in a developing country uses a little more than 2.5 gallons of water per day for drinking, washing, and cooking. An average person in the developed world uses 13 gallons per day only for toilet flushing.

I looked at the toilets in my house. They use 1.6 gallons of water per flush. That means, in just 2 flushes per day we have used more water than someone, somewhere in the world. And, I didn't have to hike for miles with containers strapped to my body to bring that water back to my house, like some women do on a daily basis. I didn't worry if the water I drank carried diseases that would cause me to very sick or dehydrated. It's filtered water.

I was thinking about a campaign I would call A Day Without Water. You know, like the one a shoe company does on a day when participants are to go without wearing shoes. I was thinking we could all go out to the street and turn the water off to our houses. We could estimate the amount of water we would save that day and the cost of that water and then we could all send that money to an organization that helps provide clean, safe water to those who do not readily have access. Quite frankly, can I just be honest, I am unwilling to do it. I like having electricity - being warm in the winter & cool in the summer inside my house, being able to see when it gets dark outside and using my appliances. I like having running water on demand.

What, then, is my responsibility? One thing our running group, iRun with Purpose, is doing is raising money to dig a well in India. It's a start. Maybe we can't provide clean water for all 884 million people desperate for it but for a village in India I hope it will make a difference.

Running with purpose & serving the King,


1 comment:

Julie said...

Thanks for the reminder, Jeanette, of all we take for granted. I especially liked reading your account of our water situation in Peru. Brought back some good (and not so good) memories. I would be in favor of turning off our water for a day! As long as we could have bottled water for drinking, I could live without bathing, washing my hair, washing my hands, and washing dishes. That last one wouldn't be hard at all! ;) It sounds like an impossible thing to do, something most people in civilized countries would never dream of considering. But you and I (and anyone else who has been on a mission trip where the water is unsafe) know it's possible. I'm in. And I volunteer Jeremy as well. ;)