With water, water all around you may think you know a lot about the substance that we use every day for washing, cleaning, drinking and upmost: for surviving. However, Just a Drop understands the need for water in extreme environments, as they work to improve access to clean, safe water and sanitation all over the world in communities where it is needed most. From Afghanistan to Zambia, Just a Drop builds simple, sustainable projects that have lasting positive effects on communities.
So, for our most recent blog post – written by our summer intern, Natasha Neely – Just a Drop has been digging out some unusual facts on water that will put your knowledge to the test. With any luck they will really make you think carefully when you next turn on your tap, and watch that familiar transparent fluid come gushing out…
1. We can only live without water for 3-5 days, and this is assuming we’re not too hot, too cold or taking exercise. Every cell and organ in the body requires water to function properly; water carries nutrients, flushes out impurities and cushions bones to ensure we stay healthy. Without drinking water we deteriorate and eventually die in a very short space of time, and it’s not a nice way to go. Consider how thirsty you feel after a short spurt of exercise, even if you have already had a drink that day. Now try to imagine how this would feel without the prospect of simply rehydrating…
2. More people have a mobile phone than a toilet. Out of the world’s estimated population of 7 billion people, 6 billion are able to text and call from a wireless telephone yet only 4.5 billion people have access to a working latrine. This unbelievable statistic shows the flippant nature of the modern world. How can having a mobile phone supersede the need for basic health rights? This is a problem that is critical in India in particular, where 60% of the population lacks access to basic sanitation yet half of its residents are mobile phone subscribers. This leaves them able to send a text message, but open to a plethora of water related diseases connected with poor hygiene.
3. Water is the only natural molecule to exist on earth in all three physical states: as ice as a solid, water as a liquid and vapour as a gas. There is no other molecule on earth that can exist naturally as such. It is also very unusual as it forms a solid form that is less dense than it’s liquid; so that ice floats on top of water. These properties enable water to be an essential life giver – for instance, ecosystems can still survive under a frozen lake – an incredible feat if you really consider it!
4. Amazingly, 71% of the earth’s surface is made up of water. However, most of that is seawater, making only 2.5% of it fresh (and therefore drinkable). Of this, the freshwater that is not polluted, trapped in soil, or too far underground to be reached, equates to only 0.003% of the total 71% of the world’s surface water. Finding this hard to visualise? That is a mere teaspoon out of world’s total bathtub full of water that we can use!
5. The average Brit uses 4,645 litres of water a day, (including the water used for manufacturing our clothing and food). That is more than four cubic metres of water per person, and would fill a very large tank every day. WWF warns that worryingly, some of this is taken from areas of the world where water sources are already dwindling, and could therefore cause the disappearance of some of the world’s most important rivers. Next time you turn on the tap, consider the average 4,645 litres you use, and think about giving something back, or using a little less.
6. Water cannot be manufactured without a chemical explosion. To create water, hydrogen and oxygen must be fused, requiring energy; their combined flammability means that the process is exceedingly dangerous. The Hindenburg airship explosion – a plane filled with hydrogen bags – tells us this much. If we cannot safely manufacture water, lack of it must therefore be tackled in other ways. Just a Drop does just that, through redistribution of resources, implementation of simple collection methods, and improvement of sanitation where it is needed most.
7. Water poses as a four-pronged health challenge. Although as we have seen, it is essential for life, there are four medical subcategories that show the potency of water if mismanaged.
- Water-borne diseases are caused by drinking water contaminated with human or animal faeces or urine. Diseases such as cholera and diarrhoea make up the long list of water-borne infections and appallingly, they are the leading cause of child mortality in developing countries. In fact, every 20 seconds a child dies from a water-related disease.
- Water-scarce diseases such as scabies, lice, and leprosy thrive in conditions where sanitation is poor and water is not readily available. Many of these diseases are highly contagious and uncomfortable, but completely preventable through provision of clean water.
- Water-based diseases occur within stagnant water and are transmitted by aquatic organisms such as snails and worms. Schistosomiasis (bilharzia) is second to malaria as the world’s most destructive parasitic infection and is a huge problem in Africa, where four of every five people with the disease live. These diseases are highly effective at reproducing and causing large outbreaks, meaning access to a clean place to wash is vital in preventing them from spreading.
- Water-vector diseases are spread through insects, such as mosquitoes and malaria, which breed near stagnant water. The insect becomes infected and is highly effective at spreading the disease by biting, thus 300-400 million people may catch malaria in any given year, and 1 million of those will die. These deaths are completely unnecessary and can be prevented by eliminating the need to collect water from stagnant sources.
Just £1 can help Just a Drop to provide people around the world with basic access to the amazing life line that is water. Through improving sanitation we can help to tackle the thousands of health challenges that are associated with dirty water, and make a real difference around the world. Water is such an important component for living that it affects every aspect of a person’s life, from education to life span. To support Just a Drop, or find out more about our work click here or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.