|Children and women queue to receive water at a UNICEF-supported distribution point in Bouldougo,Djibouti. ©UNICEF/NYHQ2011-1353/Najwa Mekki
By Jade Bae, UNICEF Australia Communications Intern
Here’s a tried and tested question. What is the one thing that you couldn’t live without? Let me guess. Your iPhone/car/ TV/internet /money… or, you know, personally speaking, food.
The trick to this question is that there is virtually no wrong answer; none, zilch, nada – because what’s important to me may not be as big of an importance to you - but there is one, universally right answer, and that is: water.
Why do I say this?
As we all know, the human body is built so that we require a steady intake of H2O (around 2L-4L for an average adult per day) to keep our body hydrated, which in turn helps our body function at its best; whether by maintaining healthy blood cells, regulating body temperature or keeping the bloodstream liquid enough to flow through blood vessels. Our body can go weeks without food, but only days without water. It’s literally the one thing we need to survive.
However, as vital as it is, water is a finite source and much more limited than you might think.
Globally, water use has been growing at more than twice the rate of population growth in the last century. If that’s surprising enough, it’s projected that by 2025 (which is only 13 years from now!), 1.8 billion people will be living in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity, and two-thirds of the world’s population could be under stress conditions! That gives you something to think about while you’re in the shower, doesn’t it?
But what could we possibly be using this water on? (Hint: The answer will surprise you.)
Apart from your usual domestic uses of showering, doing the laundry or dishes, washing the car and watering your vegie garden – which only accounts for 8% of the world’s use of freshwater – our biggest use of freshwater is on irrigation, which makes up 70%. Irrigated agriculture is then used to make – you guessed it – FOOD.
To put it into perspective, to produce just 1kg of grain, it takes 1500L of water. To produce 1kg of meat, we require 10 times more, equalling a whopping 15 000L of water!
The world is thirsty because we are hungry.
Today – 22 March 2012 - is World Water Day, and this year’s theme is “Water and Food Security”. An annual awareness day organised by UN Water, it invites all global citizens to participate in discussions and events online and offline to focus our attention on the importance of freshwater and advocate for the sustainable management of our most valuable natural resource. It’s also a day in which you could make an educated decision about your own water usage and choose to adopt sustainable choices to reduce your water footprint.
Food security is necessary for the nourishment of all people around the world and particularly crucial for children in their early stages of life. It can only exist when all people at all times have both physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs.
Sounds good, doesn’t it? But here’s the catch.
Roughly 30% of the food produced worldwide – about 1.3 billion tons - is lost or wasted every year. In developed countries, and in particular in cities, food is wasted by the consumer who is not aware of, or sensitive to, the resources needed to produce it. Diets with excessive food intake are also a source of waste and a cause of growing heath costs. Thus it’s safe to say that a change in consumer’s attitude towards this issue is necessary to reduce our global water footprint. Limiting waste = reducing water.
So with that in mind, here’s a suggestion for all of us today.
Today on World Water Day 2012, why not strike up a conversation with your friends, family and colleagues about the importance of water over your lunch break or family dinner? Get the conversation freely flowing, because one day – sooner than we ever expected - our water won’t.
To find out more and get involved, visit the UN Water’s World Water Day website here
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