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Blue Marble 2000

Little Josh discusses global water crisis and solutions like funding, cutting water usage, reducing leakages, desalination, nanotechnology & sustainability etc.

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“Pa, I am a Water Ambassador for my city now,” said Josh. “Can you help me finalize the speech I’m giving at the Water Ambassadors Kids Club tomorrow?”

“Sure,” said Rosh. “What are you speaking on?”

“Global Water Crisis!” he replied.

Father and son sat down to discuss the speech ideas Josh had in mind.

“Earth is a water planet,” Josh was saying. “96% of the Earth's water is in our oceans and 2% is frozen up in glaciers and ice caps. A tiny fraction of water exists as water vapor in our atmosphere."

"Less than 1% is fresh water, that we can use. So, over two-thirds of the fresh water on Earth is trapped in glaciers, and under a third of it is in the ground.”

“According to the U.S. Geological Survey, Earth has over 1.4 billion cubic kilometers of water. Do you know how many zeroes are there in a billion?"

"Nine! If you think that’s big, you’re forgetting that a kilometer has a 1,000 metres. And a metre is about as wide as my whole arm span.”

“A cubic kilometer is the volume of a cube which is one kilometer long on each side. So if I change this number into a cubic metre which is a cube one metre long on each side - something I could possibly measure with my arm span, I would need over a billion billion arm spans. That’s 18 zeroes.”

“That's enough water to fill over 352 million trillion gallon-sized milk bottles! Yet, the United Nations says that over a billion people in our world don't have access to fresh drinkable water, and 2.5 billion are without adequate sanitation facilities.”

“In deserts, there is simply no water. But in places like Africa, there’s no money to bring it out of the ground. Good clean water exists just below the ground in some parts of Africa, yet an estimated 300 million African people do not have access to clean drinking water."

"Water Crisis? Yeah Right! That’s not a water crisis. They have a money crisis.”

“We pay $2 at our supermarkets for a little plastic bottle of water. That lasts us less than one day. According to The Water Project, the price of just a dozen of these bottles, $24, is enough money to fix the drinking water problem for another person.”

“Interesting,” said Rosh. “According to a 2004 World Health Organization analysis, every dollar invested on water and sanitation created 3-34 times economic benefits, depending on the region. The same report also said that further improvements in drinking-water quality, via point-of-use disinfection and access to improved water and sanitation, would lead to benefits of US$5-60 per US$ invested.”

“But instead of investing wisely, Pa,” continued Josh, “global citizens are becoming penny wise, pound foolish. The 2008 UNICEF report says that about 90% of sewage and 70% of industrial waste in developing countries, is discharged into water channels without treatment, polluting the usable water supply.”

“Contaminated water is deadlier than AIDS. It is deadlier than cancer. It is deadlier than even the Second World War, which was the deadliest military conflict in our history, in terms of total dead. Over 60 million people were killed in World War II, which was about 3% of the 1940 world population."

"A United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report, titled Sick Water?, said that contaminated water was killing a child every 20 seconds, and more people now died from contaminated water than from all forms of violence, including wars.”

Tiger Drops 2“Overdose of fertilizer to farms causes contamination too. Excess fertilizer leaches into the soil, eventually poisoning it and contaminating our water channels."

"This leads to harmful algal blooms (HABs) like Cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) and red tides. Although most algae are good, HABs deplete oxygen in the water, killing off other species.”

“Extracting vital minerals from the Earth, to make fertilizers, can also kill our water resources. An example is Israel’s Dead Sea, which may truly die now. The Dead Sea’s potash, salts which contain water-soluble potassium, is a popular component of fertilizers.”

“Yea, I read about that report too,” said Rosh. “About a third of Dead Sea’s surface area has disappeared and sinkholes are increasingly common, as the waters shrink amid drought, agricultural diversion - largely from the Jordan River, and pumping - to extract minerals for fertilizers.”

“The problem is compounded, Pa,” Josh became more animated, “when clean water is wasted and mindlessly abused. According to UNDESA (United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs), around 3 billion people struggle to find it each day, or die trying.”

"In Africa, women reportedly spend half of their day walking to get water from a clean source. Likewise in parts of India and Latin America. It is estimated that in the remotest parts of Africa, the female population spends a combined total of 40 billion hours a year walking to and from a well."

Rosh could see that Josh was passionate about these issues. Discussion continued over the dining table, where Isha and Hosh joined in too, with statistics and suggestions.

"Conventional showerheads flow at 5 gallons per minute or more,” Isha was saying. “So, even a 2-minute daily shower will use over 10 gallons per person per day. Low-flow showerheads typically flow at 2.5 gallons per minute, or less! Spend less time in the shower, and don't use the bath."

"There is even a Water Footprint Calculator now, which you can use to find out how much water you use directly and indirectly each day in various things. Based on your country of residence and your own consumption pattern, you will have a unique water footprint."

“Using water wisely can help," Rosh cut in, "but it won’t solve the global water crisis. There is a limit to how much usage we can cut. Water is leaking out of our pipes in millions of litres a day, while we talk about cutting showers down to 2 minutes and not using baths.”

“Upto half the drinking water in developing world cities is lost through leaks. Even in developed countries, up to a third of fresh water supplies are lost due to leakage. In some major cities, losses can hit up to 70%."

"Every leaky faucet that drips at the rate of one drop per second wastes about the same amount of water as a person taking a 2-minute shower. So, just fixing our plumbing will save a lot more than cutting our water use down to nothing.”

“And let's not think of water, like we think of noodles. We used to have 2-minute noodles, then 1-minute ones, and now we have Instant noodles. At the rate we are going, we’ll end up having instant showers.”

Sunset from Kure Atoll“Shower time, love”.

“Ok mom.”


“Water plants, love?”

"Squirt, squirt!"


"Squirt, squirt, squirt!"

“Even washing hands with soap, in clear running water for at least 20 seconds,” Hosh laughed and agreed, "is recommended by doctors. How much of my body could I properly clean in a two-minute shower?”

“You couldn’t,” Isha looked at him pointedly. “But others could. You think the more you shower, the cleaner you are."

Everyone grinned. Hosh had been spending a long time in showers lately.

"Showering regularly is a good hygienic practice," she powered on, "but showering too much can potentially also damage your skin and deplete the natural oils your body secretes to protect your skin.”

“We need to create more usable water,” said Rosh, bringing everyone back to topic. “We can do this by desalination, which means boiling salt water. It is one of mankind's earliest forms of water treatment. But it can be 5-10 times more expensive than recovering water from normal sources.”

“With nanotechnology, you can get the cleanest, purest water from the dirtiest, filthiest water source. And it is cheaper than all other methods. So why don’t we build heaps of these plants everywhere?”

“The long term solution is not in cutting shower times. It lies in caring for our rivers, having better plumbing, and producing more clean water. And let’s not talk about having no money to do these things. Not after the world had a spare 10 trillion dollars to lose in the Global financial crisis last year.”

Discussion raged late into the night, helping Josh iron out his speech ideas. The family watched with pride the next day, as their little boy delivered his speech with confidence to the world.

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