As I was driving to work yesterday, I saw a pretty usual sight for the morning in Florida: A neighbor watering their lawn. And I was annoyed. I understand (though do not share) the cultural value of having a green, well-watered lawn. And I know how hard it is to accomplish in Florida, especially with the recent lack of rain. It didn’t annoy me that the neighbor was watering his lawn per se. What annoyed me was that the sprinklers were inefficiently watering his lawn; water was covering his/her driveway and the street. What annoyed me was that something so precious, so scarce could be treated with such disregard. The water used to keep the lawn green is probably cleaner than the water accessible to most people in the developing world. And it was just wasted as it flowed onto the street.
How can we treat something so important so frivolously?
Most of us, when we turn on our faucets, expect (and get) to drink a glass of water that looks like this:
Not only is it convenient for us to get clean water. It’s easy. We have just come to expect it. However, most of the developing world gets their “clean” water like this:
According to one source, 884 million people lack access to safe water supplies (that’s approximately one in eight people). Nearly 4 million people die from water-related disease each year. Here’s a fact that really gets me: “An American taking a five-minute shower uses more water than a typical person in a developing country slum uses in a whole day.” A five-minute shower? I take a shower that’s at least twice that long.
Here’s another fact that I find disturbing: Every 20 seconds, a child dies from a water-related disease. That’s three children in a minute…180 children in an hour…4,320 children in a day. And clean water in America is used water our lawns.
I don’t say all of this to guilt people into not watering the lawns. I understand that we can’t ship that water to the developing countries and that you (as someone who pays for your water) have the right to water your lawn. And I do realize that not all the water that is used to water lawns is potable. What I do want to point out is that water is something that we should treat as more valuable (regardless of whether it’s suitable for drinking). We need to be more aware of how we use (or waste) it.
I will, however, make a plug or issue a challenge, or whatever you want to call it. If you water your lawn more than once a week, will you consider making a contribution to an organization like World Vision or Charity: Water to help create access to clean water in developing countries? You don’t have to donate a lot, or often, but do something to share something of which we so easily take advantage. There are countless organizations that do water projects in developing countries, so don’t feel obligated to consider either of those organizations, but it helps to know where to start.