A Mother’s Day Plea for fresh water ’round the World

by arlene on May 9, 2010

Happy Mothers’ Day to all who are mothers!  To all who are nurturers, to all who help people, animals and plants grow and thrive!

I’ve been thinking lately a lot about water. We recently spent a weekend on Catalina, a delightful island off Southern California with some wonderful historic aspects, especially art tile. Being a small island, you must get there by crossing the water by boat of some sort, and we like most arrived by ferry, spending an hour being jostled by the waves and surrounded in every direction by water. It accentuated the sense of going on an excursion. Palm trees laden with dates, birds-of-paradise, bougainvillea and hibiscus colored the landscape in exotic, warm colors. It almost felt as if we’d ventured to a foreign country, and stepped back in time.

In most ways that stepping back in time was part of the fun: we were there for a Scottish country dance event held in the fabulous Art Deco Casino, and many of the women wore outfits appropriate for the 1920′s and -30′s. But I felt like I’d also stepped back in terms of regressing, ecologically speaking. I was coming from Berkeley, where for all our City’s faults, we long ago outlawed styrofoam cups, and were early adopters of recycling City-wide. At our first social event that weekend I was confronted first with a table full of plastic water bottles, and then a styrofoam cup for my tea.  When it came time to dispense with my cup, I found a garbage can full of bottles and cans, as well as paper plates and those damn styrofoam cups. When I asked a staff member if they recycled, he asked incredulously “Here? On the island?”

Island life represents special challenges. But the group as a whole seemed unconcerned about consuming water from plastic bottles, even though we’ve all heard the horror stories, and some have seen first hand how water bottles pollute so many waters, end up in land fill, and require such an investment of oil to produce. An estimated 1.5 million gallons of oil each year — enough to fuel 100,000 cars for that year – are used to produce an ever-growing demand for plastic water bottles. And 90% of those bottles will not be recycled.  Bottled water costs up to 10,000 times as much as tap water, while tap water, controlled by the EPA, is held to a higher standard than bottled water, which is controlled by the FDA. I know in some areas the tap water doesn’t taste so great, and that may have been the case on the island. But simple tap filters or filter bottles can solve that problem. You also can buy water bottles that include filters.

I was fascinated to find that a Sustainability Engineer, Pablo Paster, MBA, has recently gone through the exercise of calculating the resources required to import a one liter bottle of Fiji water to the US. He calculated a remarkable 6.74 liters of water required to produce 1 liter to drink here, plus other associated resource costs. You can read about his study from the linked blog.

I’m giving a special Mothers’ Day thank you to a pair of women in Amsterdam who have taken on a mighty challenge to us all, and have formed a website called JoinThePipe.org  Their mission is ambitious, but has already had considerable success: “We are a community of tap water drinkers with a dream……to build the longest pipeline in the world, long enough to bring drinking water to everyone without it.” They involved a few friends and family, then media and a few companies, and combined social media with a physical object, to promote their message and begin building pumps and water treatment in Asian and Africa. They developed not a shiny object, but a different kind of water bottle that both carries tap water and a message. reusable water bottle that users can link with friends, to make the “longest pipe in the world.”  The pipe bottles and carafes symbolize bringing clean water to any area where people are suffering and dying for that which other parts of the world have in excess. A video and image of the longest pipe and more details on how JoinThePipe grows the pipeline can be found on their site JoinThePipe.org. Sales of those bottles in Benelux, through sponsorhip of Aveda, have started their pipeline. I urge you to watch their short, and inspiring video.

JoinThePipe to make clean, safe tap water accessible to all.

Next, there were the showers. . . stay tuned for my next water rant!

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