Saturday, August 20, 2011

Is there a water problem?

Hi Dr. Green ,

I am pretty much into homework and parties but people say there's a water problem developing world-
wide. Should I care about that?

-Party girl

Dear Party girl,

I appreciate your concerns for this issue. The simplest answer to your question would be as a resident of
the world, any worldwide issue is something you should care about. Water in particular, is a substance
that no human being can live without. About 60% of your body, 70% of your brain, and 90% of your
lungs is made out of water. The average kidney needs about 1.5 liters of water to function correctly. The
water problem developing around the world today has two parts: access to water and scarcity of water.

Access to clean fresh water has become more and more limited. Approximately 1 in every 8 people
lack access to safe water supplies; that is about 884 million people. On top of that, each year there are
about 3.575 million deaths attributed to water-related diseases. While cities and slums are growing at
an alarming rate around the world, the ability to get clean water is diminishing by the minute. A five-
minute shower in America uses more water than a typical slum uses in an entire day. Often the people
in the slum end up paying almost five to ten times the price for water than a nearby city resident.

Water scarcity is quickly becoming a very crucial issue. Only 1% of the global water supply is usable for
human consumption. And of that 1%, a large amount of water is being polluted and then deemed unfit
for human consumption. As our population rises, the demand for water also rises, but the problem
is that we do not have an indefinite supply of water. In countries like Bahrain, the use of desalination
plants has already been implemented because of the lack of fresh water. In order to prevent this
problem from becoming any larger than it already is, the key lies in conservation of water.

Water conservation is essential in taking the first steps to solving this issue. Just because the problem
is worldwide doesn’t mean you can’t take measures right here at home. Just start with your own house
by asking yourself these questions: do I use a low flow showerhead? Are my appliances marked with
an EnergyStar label to indicate less energy consumption? If I have a standard toilet, have I managed a
way to either displace the water in the tank or get a water saver flush mechanism? All of these things
are easily manageable at home and save a lot of water! There are also behavioral changes you can
make to your lifestyle. For example, while putting on shampoo and conditioner in the shower, turn off
your shower and then turn it on again while rinsing it out. Cutting down your shower time saves a lot
of water and a lot of money. Try running full load dishwashers instead of hand-washing your dishes and
turn off your tap when brushing your teeth. Altering your lifestyle and the appliances you buy for your
home can do a lot to conserve water in an easy manner. So going back to your question, yes you should
care about the developing water problem because although it may have not touched you yet, it will
spread and grow until it does, and by then it will be very difficult to reverse the effects.

Happy conserving,

Dr. Green

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