Due to the scarcity of clean water, we are in an ever worsening water crisis, particularly in the developing world. Although the United Nations declared access to clean water and sanitation a human right, nearly 1 billion people around the globe still risk death and disease due to a lack of potable water.
The disproportionate levels of water consumption in industrialized countries as compared to the developing world is appalling. While people in developing countries are dying due to the water crisis, those in industrialized countries over-consume.
Every day, 2 million tons of human waste are disposed of in our oceans, rivers and streams. This not only negatively impacts the environment but also harms the health of surrounding communities.
Unsafe drinking water and lack of sanitation kills more people every year than all forms of violence, including war. According to Charity: Water, every week, nearly 38,000 children under the age of 5 die from unsafe drinking water and unhygienic living conditions.
Water is also a contributing factor for war including the conflict in Darfur which is at least in part due to the lack of access to water. A UN commissioned report found that in the 21st century, water scarcity will become one of the leading causes of conflict in Africa.
Different types of food have differing water requirements as part of their food footprint. According to The Water Project, it takes 24 liters of water to produce one hamburger. That means it would take over 184 billion gallons of water to make just one hamburger for every person in the United States.
The digital devices we use also have surprising water requirements as part of their technology footprint. According to ieee Spectrum, a cell phone requires half a liter of water to charge, with over 80 million active iPhones in the world, that’s 40 million liters to charge those phones alone.
Even our clothes have a fashion footprint, Treehugger reports that a cotton t-shirt requires 1,514 liters of water to produce, and jeans require 6,813 liters.
As reported in Change.org, the US leads the world in bottled water consumption, with an average consumption of 200 bottles of water per person each year. Over 17 million barrels of oil are needed to manufacture those water bottles, 86 percent of which will never be recycled.
Today, 40% of America’s rivers and 46% of America’s lakes are too polluted for fishing, swimming, or aquatic life.
Water pollution also has a monetary cost, polluted coastal waters are estimated to cost the global economy $12.8 billion a year.
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