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Saturday, March 25, 2006


This is my Live Write newspaper column for next week. (I prefer my water diluted nicely with Scotch...)

You may have noticed that March 22nd was World Water Day – the occasion was supported by an international conference in Mexico City. Considering that more than 60% of my body is composed of water, I’ll honour World Water Day with a personal story, and some information.

Years ago, I worked on relief and development projects in Sudan and one of my duties was to orient expatriate delegates to the working conditions. This included everything from security tips (always park your vehicle such that you can make a quick exit) to health issues (don’t swim in the Nile River; the crocs or the parasites might get you).

The temperature was often well above 40 degrees Celsius. One important instruction was to insist that they drink at least 10 litres of filtered or boiled water each day. To do this required planning, especially in a remote village, where the nearest well might be miles away, and finding bottled water might entail a drive, and a long airplane flight.

Sometimes I used a demonstration to get their attention. I stood in the mid-day sun, held my bare arm out in front of the audience, and then drank a litre of water in several quick gulps. As they watched, droplets of water formed on my arm – only to evaporate instantly. It was a pretty good show. It was also serious business and many delegates succumbed to serious dehydration or water borne illness. One thing I brought home to Canada from Sudan was a great appreciation for safe, accessible and clean water… and what happens without it.

Water has become a highly precious resource. There are some places where a barrel of water costs more than a barrel of oil (it does in Canada too, if you buy it by the bottle). Access to fresh water may be the issue of the 21st century.

Imagine this demonstration to get an idea of how little fresh water is available in the world today:
In recent decades, use of water has increased, and in many places water availability is falling to crisis levels. According to the World Health Organization, more than 80 countries, with 40 percent of the world’s population, are already facing water shortages. The quality of water in rivers and underground has deteriorated due to pollution by waste and contaminants from cities, industry and agriculture. Ecosystems are being destroyed, sometimes permanently. Over one billion people lack safe water, and three billion lack sanitation; 80 per cent of infectious diseases are waterborne, killing millions of children each year. There is an international debate underway on whether access to water is a human right or whether water is a private commodity.

Protecting, conserving and carefully managing fresh water resources will determine the quality of life for billions of people. In Canada, and particularly in BC, we are blessed with an inordinate share of that water. That shouldn’t stop us from working to ensure our water sources are not polluted or squandered. Supporting your community to develop a safe, clean water supply is a worthy cause.

And finally, the water inside you regulates your body temperature, protects your organs, dissolves nutrients and minerals to make them accessible, carries nutrients and oxygen to cells, lubricates your joints…and more. Drink many glasses of fresh, delicious water every day for your health. It may be easily accessible to you, but to quote a television ad, “It’s priceless.”

Very interesting and well done, like usual. I like the illustration you developed, which provides an excellent perspective.

I drink a lot of water because I love it, and now I'm thinking how I take that for granted. Good post.
Ah, excellent article! Yes, we are also blessed with fresh clean water here were I live (got our own well).
What bothers me is that large cooperation's already are in full gear to put their claws on this precious resource.
I agree - if oil is the black gold of the present, water will be the translucent one of the future (actually already is...).
Since we have a well, when the electricity goes off say during a bad storm, we have no water and cannot flush the loo. I complain and wring my hands as if it were a MAJOR ordeal. Sheeesh... I am such a baby. I have no idea how good I got it.

Totally unrelated..... go check out JuBlu's Out of the Blue hat contest. I believe you are listed as #1 and I know I am listed as #2... so, we are right next to each other Gary :) That would make us hat neighbors!
Rochelle and I made it to the finals too.

I wrote a post on isamericaburning about water conservation and what teens in different countries are doing while the bureaucrats are accomplishing nothing.
Hi Gary

A very informative and interesting article.

You might be interested to know in Australia, which is one of the driest continents on earth, the combination of tree felling and irrigation by the early Settlers raised the water levels causing salination problems in many parts of the countryside today. Irrigation and water diversion usually causes later environmental problems.

I think the vast majority of healthy people will meet adequately daily hydration needs by letting thirst be their guide, unless they are in extremes conditions as you mentioned or undertaking rigouress exercise.
At those times it’s important to drink plenty of water when you are not thirsty.

Drinking a few glasses of water is good for you. For Women in non extreme conditions they are adequately hydrated on average of about 2.7 litres (91 ounces) of total water from all beverages and foods each day, and men average approximately 3.7 litres (125 ounces) daily, with about 80% from water and fluids and 20% from food.

Best wishes
thanks for the info, i'm on my way to get a bottle right now plus dump my coffee out
I'm in the middle of plans to mulch my gardens this year, to conserve water. Every little bit, etc.

Something interesting about thirst - it often masquerades as hunger. Diet programs are always telling people to drink more water b/c the body will say "hungry" when actually it means "thirsty"!
Where I lived in north Africa it rained only in winter; in the summer water was rationed. It was turned on only a few hours each day, 2 in the morning and 2 at night. Wives had to rush frantically to get laundry done, dishes done (washed and rinsed in pans, not with running water), veggies washed, etc. Tub baths instead of showers and the bath water carefully emptied with buckets to pour on the flower or veggie beds. All drinking water and for beverages had to be purchased by the case. I learned to appreciate clean and plentiful water such as we have in the States. As the ocean levels rise more and more fresh water sources will be contaminated by salt water. We are going to be in trouble.
good piece, Gary.

even in England, where it rains every day, there is concern about our water resources - basically, the infrastructure is in a shambles - so even we mustn't be complacent and waste water! little things like don't let the water run while you brush your teeth, share baths and don't wash that car... :o)

they say that the same glass of water in London has been drunk by 8 different people in the last 12 months! it's an urban myth, right?
LIndsey, you certainly are learned in many fields. Thanks for the facts.

WA - good story. Yes, water is appreciated greatly when one knows exactly where it comes from and how much there is... as opposed to turning the knob and presto!

Wow Ian, I can only imagine where that glass of water has been! It might make me stick to beer.(I suspect it is an urban myth, but it is fascinating to think about where the water molecules in my body may have been over the aeons...)
Excellent column.

I went to this seminar on Water Treatment Chemicals about 6 or 7 yrs ago. The main part of the lecture was all about how to protect piping of different sorts, but the Q&A was mostly about water purification for drinking.
I've forgotten a lot. I'd like to sit through that seminar again.
I suppose that's what tape recorders are for, but I didn't think it was going to be all that interesting.
Technology 1, PT 0

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