National Public Health Week: Water

April 8th

bucket for well

In continuation of this week’s theme, did you know that dirty water is one of the leading causes of death of children worldwide? If you’ve never looked at your faucet as a possession of luxury, let today be the day. The majority of people in the world do not have access to clean drinking water. In other words — if you took a shower this morning, drank water from the tap or watered your lawn, you are among the elite few who have clean, readily accessible water.

a community well without a pump

What can we do to make sure more folk have clean water?

Well in Nicaragua

Arizona is predominantly desert. If it weren’t for Hayden’s canal system, SRP and the Hohokam Indians who once figured out how to reroute water toward Phoenix, our dusty city would still be tumbleweed. We are heavily dependent on water from afar. We should treat water in Phoenix as a precious commodity. A few simple ideas anyone can do regardless of their location:
1. Take quick showers. Minimize the amount of water you are wasting. Plus, if you’ve got houseplants or a garden you regularly water, consider sticking a bucket in the shower to gather what would otherwise be going down the drain.
2. Plant native species. If you live in Phoenix, consider swapping your water-chugging lawn for a natural beauty, like a saguaro.
3. Wash your car with a bucket, old school style. Don’t take your car through a water gobbling car wash. Just kidding. After several email from great readers, I find out this is the WRONG thing to do. Instead, I’m letting good old Indy go dirty. Car washes may do a better job of using less water than we can in our driveways.
4. Buy a great water bottle and use it. Refuse to buy bottled water. Bottled water sucks. The plastic we waste in bottled water is ridiculous and horrible for the earth. Reuse cups at your coffee shop and vow to never buy bottled water.

nicaragua well

Support green legislation and activism. Get behind those in Congress who want to change how companies nationally use water and therefore how they are able to pollute our waterways.

getting the day's water

Give, even if it is a little bit, to global groups that are digging wells in the developing world and providing clean drinking water to those truly in need. I’ve been fortunate to help bring wells to rural villages in Central America and Africa. Thankfully, this not only improves the immediate health of the community members, but also the long-term health too. Suddenly those girls who were responsible for lugging the water too and from can enroll in school. By providing clean water, we can help plant the seeds of long-term change in the developing world.

well in nicaraguan village

In Cameroon, I got my water from a well. It took three days to do a load of laundry, by hand. I bathed rarely, standing in a bucket and pouring the cups over my head. I felt stupidly blessed when I returned home and took my first hot shower. The water poured over me and then I put on fresh, clean laundry that I hadn’t worked a bit to launder. I haven’t since taken water for granted. It is simple to me that we should be collectively working to provide clean drinking water to everyone in the world — not just the affluent. If solving the world’s woes is too daunting, do your part and make changes to conserve water in your own home.


Posted in
Good to Great, Journal, Public Health
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21 Responses

  1. Your post this week have been very informative and I look forward to reading the remainder of your posts on National Public Health Week.

  2. Melanie April 8, 2008

    Can you clarify water saving tip #3? I have read conflicting info on other web sites that car washes actually use less water than washing in the driveway. Is there a specific/bucket method that uses less? I’m really just confused about this point. Thanks for this post. I know I needed the reminder about how lucky we are to have clean water. It’s a blessing that we really need to be mindful of because it is a finite resource that will be painfully missed if we don’t take care. Thank you for the info.

  3. I do think it’s a miracle every time I turn on the tap. Well, maybe every fifth time. Thanks for the reminder, we live in such unthinkable luxury.

  4. I think this is the best ‘help the Earth’ post you’ve written Kel. Lovely.

  5. Ginger April 8, 2008

    The car wash thing is confusing, and may be a regional thing… Soap and wax in the storm drains are no good, either! Around here, the car washes filter and reuse, and make sure it’s clean before it goes down the drain. Our public utilities (Seattle) ask us NOT to wash our cars in our driveways for that very reason. ๐Ÿ™‚
    I grew up with well water that was not very clean or drinkable, so I do appreciate what I have now. Thank you for a great post.

  6. Wonderful! I try not to waste, and am reminded how lucky I am to live here. I will be grateful tonight when I turn on my faucet.(To add my 2 cents, I’m all for desert landscapes here. Do we need those lush lawns in AZ?!)

  7. I remember i had my first taste of living off of rain water when I visited Jamaica. Showers were cold and we had to turn off the water suds up turn it on to rinse off. They cooked with it too and it was used sparingly so that it would not run out. Especially since there was a drought that summer. That was 20 years ago and I learned alot that summer. Althought in the winter i tend to take longer showers because it’s cold. But for the most part i have tried to instill in my kids that water is precious.

  8. I am trying to do what I can. I take my coffee to work. When I am done I refill it with ice and water form our machine at work. We even reuse our coffee grounds for another pot of coffee.

    I have also been trying to buy Christmas gifts from The Hunger Site and handmade from etsy. We are also “using what we have”. Things I have purchased but never used. SO wasteful! I am slowly turning this bad habit around.

  9. Pharmacies. New board
    Drugstore: discussion of medication, pills, mixtures, etc. What to buy? How to cure the disease? – Answers to these questions can be found on the site and much more.

  10. We do tend to take our amenities for granted, completely forgetting that they are indeed life-giving blessings.

  11. I have always cherished being able to drink right from the tap, but especially after traveling to places where this wasn’t possible.

    Great post!

  12. Great eye opening post for me. I realize how lucky I am to have fresh drinking water, and to think I’ve not always “liked” water. Thanks for the post Kelli.

  13. It amazes me in this day and age that it’s hard for people to have the luxury of water.

  14. My water experience in cameroon has been similar to yours. The plumbing in cities was made quickly with limited budget causing very limited water pression.

    I had to use buckets to wash myself and my clothes. There’s not enough pression in toilets, so we have to pour a bucket a water in the toilet after we’re done so that it flushes down. And they were lucky to have water coming directly in their house.

    My first shower in a hotel after 3 weeks with buckets is something I still remember today. I feel blessed everytime I shower or start the washing machine.

    The bucket in the shower to water plants is a great idea!

  15. Good call on the shower bucket. Granted, I’ll need to get a shower big enough to accommodate myself AND a bucket, but that’s ok, when I can I will.

    Meanwhile, huge proponent of the personal water bottle (covered in random stickers of course) and drought resistant landscaping.

    This is the year we’re getting rid of the front lawn. Bye bye water sucker!

  16. When I visited Arizona I was surprised at how many golf courses there were. All that green lawn isn’t natural and is going to be a BIG problem.

    Another thing gardeners should do is catch the rain water. A trash barrell or two of rain water is a lot for a home garden.

  17. I live in Ukraine and our water is not safe to drink from the tap. Not even for the people who were raised here. In St. Petersburg, Russia, you can’t even brush your teeth with the water, much less drink it.

    I do not take clean water for granted!

  18. You can also support the tap project by paying for what would normally be a free glass of water at a participating restaurant or donating money to this UNICEF based charity. I’m pretty sure that every dollar equals ten days of clean drinking water. Simple and practical!

  19. Awsome post. I will be looking at my tap a bit more lovingly than usual. ๐Ÿ™‚