I am currently in the state of Kerala, India and I’ve had water on the mind lately. From the famous backwaters and lagoons in Alleppey with their picturesque houseboats to the roaring Arabian sea in Kochi, lately I have found myself in my ideal element - surrounded by water. An element that I consider mine, even though I am an Air sign. Potable water is something I certainly take for granted. 663 million people around the globe live without access to clean water.
Earlier in the week I spent a few days experiencing village life through my partnership with Visit.org. Now, whenever I am handed a glass of water in India without seeing it’s origin I am always hesitate to drink it. Even though I have been here three months my stomach has not grown tolerant to the chemicals, enzymes and who knows what else that can be found in India’s tap water. Yet here I was in a village, far away from any shop where I could buy bottled water, from any water filters and with my reusable water completely empty. I was extremely thirsty after spending the whole day in the blistering Indian spring heat. My host did not speak English so I couldn’t communicate with her to try to find out if the water was clean, safe or filtered. I guzzled down the cup of water, assuming it would be my last and that I’d spend the next few days with insane cramps and a miserable stomach.
Later I asked the Snehatheeram liaison about the water, he laughed at me and told me that part of the community-based cooperative was bringing government water to the village. But it came from a well in the ground I told him! He explained that the well connected to the government water lines and that the villagers boil and chill the water before consuming it. They even infuse it with medicinal herbs. My water tasted of lemon grass which was entirely refreshing. I don’t know what I would have done if the water had not been clean. Now I know what my next investment needs to be for this life of mine on the road; a Lifestraw, which transforms contaminated water into potable water.
Growing up in the Midwest of The United States I didn’t often think twice before drinking water directly from the faucet, a hose, or a creek. Whenever we would go to Uruguay to visit my father’s family I never really understood why we had to only drink bottled water or boil water first, even before we used it for cooking. The idea that water could be contaminated was something entirely foreign to me. Then, in New York City, I began to actually appreciate tap water. Everyone knows NYC has the best water in the states, it comes from the Hudson Valley and is enriched with healthy minerals. Yet while in NYC we enjoy all the safe drinking water we can enjoy, there are thousands of people in Flint, Michigan who cannot even brush their teeth with faucet water. This issue has been ongoing for years and the government has yet to do anything significant to bring healthy water to the community.
The water crisis was not something I was very aware of until the holidays last year when my friend, Natasha Jhunjhnuwala, Founder and Designer of Mer Culture, and her family launch a campaign with Charity Water to raise over $10,000 to supply a water well system in a remote village to provide potable water to over 300 local people. She created a beautiful rendition of Imagine with reimagined lyrics about the water crisis that you absolutely must see. Through rigorous outreach and a 6K charity walk for water in Hong Kong where they live they were able to surpass their goal.
World Water Day is celebrated annually on March 22nd after the United Nations commemorated the day in 1993 at the UN Environment and Development Conference. Through my work with Visit.org I have discovered many incredible NGO’s around the globe that are bringing clean water to their communities. Through Visit.org partners travelers can directly impact water supplies through community based tourism. Many are in developing countries and are working towards improving local WASH facilities (water, sanitation and hygiene). Travelers can visit Eco Filtro, a social enterprise in Guatemala, to learn about their water filtration process that supplies clean water to local underfunded Guatemalan schools, each visit funds an entire water filter! There is the Entanda Discovery Tour in Uganda with proceeds providing clean water to the villagers. Guest can experience rural mountain life in Ooty, India with RDO Trust while supporting their efforts to supply the community with safe drinking water.
How will you make waves this World Water Day? Will you start to appreciate your access to potable water? In Europe I used to find it so strange that not only was water not served to me when I sat down, but more often then not I was required to buy water. While I believe the latter is a business strategy, it now makes sense to me not to serve tap water to guests until they ask for it. So don't accept water you won't drink, take shorter showers, wash your clothes less frequently. Small lifestyle changes can help maintain water supplies, wherever you are in the world.