Stop Taking Water for Granted

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Stop, close your eyes, and take a moment to think about your home, without water faucets, without showerheads, without garden hoses, and without toilets. We use water to drink, to clean, to cook, to grow things, to cool our cars, to do countless things that we often take for granted because we have easy access to one of the most abundant, and most precious resources in the world.

Imagine instead that your only easy access to water was from a dirty irrigation ditch, like in the photo below from a New Mexico back in the 1930s.

A young boy dipping water from an irrigation ditch, to be brought home for cooking and drinking, in a photo from Chamisal, New Mexico, originally published in July 1940

Or imagine that you lived in Washington, DC, and your only source of water was a backyard faucet shared by many homes, as shown in this image from 1935:

A woman collecting a bucket of water from a washbasin under a backyard water faucet, in a photo from Washington DC, originally published in 1935

Now imagine the coal company shutting off all public utilities to your home, including water when they decided to abandon the local mine:

A man locking up access to water, to keep people from other camps from stealing it.

The images above are from the United States in the 30s and 40s, but there are many people across the globe right now struggling for access to water. People who don’t have the convenience of a dirty irrigation ditch near their home or a shared urban faucet in their back yards.

Today is Blog Action Day 2010, a day when bloggers join together to write about and start a conversation about a specific topic. This year’s topic is Water – and how almost a billion people in the world don’t have access to clean and safe drinking water.

Now imagine that you can help, through groups like Unicef or or Engineers without Borders.

You can.

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43 thoughts on “Stop Taking Water for Granted”

  1. This is so great. I love that you put a link to the petition. Thank you for caring about others, it really is a joy to read. And it makes people want to get involved.

  2. A sobering topic. Scary to think about it. Hate to be apocalyptic but no doubt there will be conflict over water that dwarfs what we’ve seen over oil.

  3. OK usually I come to your site to read your insight on SEO and try to read between the lines for an edge. Today I was inspired to write becuase as a ex – 10th Mountain Division soldier (Army) we spent may of days without fresh water and making our surroundings work for us. I hated those days and can say that when you don’t have the comfort we take for advantage your life / perceptive of life changes!

  4. Wow, that was sobering! We all hear about issues facing us, and especially those less fortunate, but when you see the facts and photos, it puts it all into perspective. How is it that this earth is made up of 3/4 water and yet there is a shortage….can someone explain that to me!

  5. Millions of people are already in the situation that you describe, particularly those in sub-Sarahan Africa where the rainy season has shrunk to only 2 or 3 months per year, and the rain during that period is unreliable. The impact on human health and food security is devastating. We can’t wait for governments to act–small scale solutions, village by village, can help these people now.

  6. Oops what a shame I missed the blog action day! Will mark it for the next year:)
    As for the topic, I absolutely agree. I’ve seen very good social ads about it, how squirrels are dying of thirst in the forest because someone has a leaking tap or fills a bathtub with water for a bunch of roses. And I do notice that we take running water for granted, and don’t even see how much of it we use every day. Honestly, I wish it was more expensive, or there was a quote per person and if the limit was over, the fee for water would be higher. Then people would need to think before they overuse water, because unfortunately fighting for something and using money on your side is almost always a key to victory.

  7. It’s ironic earth is called the “blue planet”, and still there isn’t enough water for everyone. Without water there’s no life, so we should care more about the way we use water daily.

  8. Anything about “helping the world” post does relate to SEO. SEOs make sure that contents are placed where it will be seen easily by people, and this kind of topic does need a lot of attention, not just to those who are needing it, but also to others to be aware of the problem. It’s a great way to give back, so making posts like this is a big contribution not just to the blogging community, but to humanity as a whole.

  9. Hi Drive Net Consulting,

    The vast majority of my posts are about SEO, and you’ll see a good number of those in the future as well. However, sometimes I’m going to post things here that aren’t SEO, and I do reserve the right to do so, whether something important like this one, or even pictures of my cat (if I had one).

  10. Hi Big Help Bill,

    I think there’s the potential to see some large scale conflict over water in the future if more attention isn’t paid to the problem now. I hope we can avoid it, whether through better technology or politics or some combination of both.

  11. Hi John,

    I really appreciate your sharing your experience, and how it changed your perception of a resource that we do too often take for granted. I think we would all be better off if more of us had experiences like that.

  12. Hi Brenda,

    There are lots of reasons that many places experience shortages of things like water. A good example is the Dust Bowl in the US in the 1930s, where poor planning and use of resources impacted millions of people negatively.

  13. Hi Louise,

    It’s encouraging to see groups like Engineers without Borders take action, and go to places like Africa and help dig wells to help people, often one village at a time. Definitely more needs to be done, though.

  14. Hi Seth,

    Thanks. Raising awareness, starting conversations, getting people to think about more than just their immediate enviroment, these are all things that can help all of us.

  15. Hi essay,

    One of the real problems in addressing an issue like water shortages around the world, and the health issues they cause is that our perceptions of problems like this are influenced by what surrounds us immediately. Perhaps if the price of water was raised, we would take it more seriously.

  16. Hi Dylan,

    We should pay more care to how we use water. It’s a precious resource, and one that may seem plentiful to many of us – but it’s rare enough in some areas of the word that close to a billion people re impacted. Helping to make it easy for everyone to access water can solve problems that most of us don’t associate with the shortages that many places have, from health to poverty to human rights.

  17. I’d actually love to see some pics of your cat. Thinking of getting one? ๐Ÿ™‚
    Seriously though – A great post on a critical issue.

  18. Water is really something that’s important and this is a pretty good nudge to all of us. Some of us waste water, not knowing that there are places in this world that really needs water.

  19. The US is the worlds largest consumer society and water is probably what we waste the most!

    I once read an article that highlighted the fact that 2/3 of daily water consumption by homes is for irrigation. Then is pains me to see grass on every house in the desert.

    Bad things concerning water are going to happen (war) I pray that this does not happen in my kids’ lifetimes!

  20. This is not only a problem in other parts of the world but it is also becoming a problem in this country. I live in the Boston area and while water charges are low the sewerage portion of your bill can be 4 to 5 times that of the water bill. This really makes you think of how much water you are using.

  21. Hi Andrew,

    Water is definitely something that most of us take too much for granted.

    I read a thread of comments on a local newspaper a few days ago where people where complaining about the cost of water in their county. A few of them had irrigation systems on their lawns that were running three times a day, seven days a week during the summer. The amount of water they were using to keep their yards green was amazing.

  22. Hi SEO Thomas,

    If I lived in the desert, I’d be more than happy with a rock garden yard. I don’t see the point or need for all that green grass in a place where it just doesn’t rain all that much.

    If we want to avoid potential warfare over water, we probably need to consider taking some kind of action now.

  23. Hi John,

    Thanks for pointing out that the problem does exist here in the states as well.

    I know that disputes between states over shared water resources such as lakes and rivers are an ongoing concern in the Western United States, and an increasing concern in the Eastern US. The following article is a few years old, but I think it captures some of the problem:

    Interstate Water Disputes: A Road Map for States

  24. Great post. We should think twice about all gifts the earth provides. Finally GREEN is big in business which is a key to preserving Mother Earth.

  25. Hi Allen,

    Thank you.

    The concepts of sustainability and stewardship of resources is probably something that we all should be keeping in mind not only in business, but in the rest of our lives. ๐Ÿ™‚

  26. Thanks for posting this topic which creates awareness on such an important topic. In some European countries, discussions over which province is entitled to the water of such and such river or dam have raged for a long time. Water rationing in the south is a reality and using water to irrigate your lawn is, at times, illegal.
    I agree with those posts above that warn that while the battle over water is mostly political at this time, it seems we are heading to a worse situation in the future.

  27. Hi Lisa,

    Out in the US west, in areas like the Colorado River Basin, where a number of states share a common resource, there have been some pretty heated debates over water as well.

    On the east coast here, there’s developing friction over responsibilty for improving the quality of waterways like the Chesapeake Bay, especially between states and the federal government.

    The battle over water appears to be political, but the impact touches a lot of lives.

  28. I think too many of us take clean water for granted. The panic that ensues when there is notification of water being cut off for a day is ridiculous with people filling every receptacle possible. Unfortunately when cut off water notifications are served many go out and buy hundreds of bottles of water increasing demand for plastics. I used to think that it might be good to restrict/ration water into homes but again the bottled water industry would become even bigger. Lose lose I’m afraid.
    Good to have a year for water… we should have every day to blog about water… it is precious.

  29. I believe we as a civilization have also taken clean water for granted. I know it sounds silly, but my wife and I take showers together to eliminate just a few gallons of warming up the water. Also, we have purchased a new refrigerator with a water dispenser (complete with filter) and no longer are using any bottled water services. Think of the amount of plastic they use in their process and think of the hydrocarbons they expel into the environment during their operational and transportation processes. Finally, instead of buying bottled water, we have purchased reusable containers (like sports bottles) that we can carry with us everywhere. The amount of plastic waste this planet currently has is staggering and each of us can make a difference in reducing this type of pollution through conversation.

  30. I saw this post in the “recently commented” section, and I had no idea what this was. I’m seriously proud to call you an SEO blogger, because this is a serious issue, whether or not it was Blog Action Day or not. Even though this is an old post, I’d just like to say thanks Bill. Even though it’s writing a quick post with a few pictures, just getting people to be aware of this is a huge help. Great, great post my man.

  31. Hi Paul,

    I started using a filter on my kitchen faucet over a year ago, and it’s really made a difference. When I get a whiff of unfiltered tap water, the smell chases my thirst away.

    We do take water and many other things for granted, and we don’t think about how much waste and pollution happens when we engage in a disposable mentality. The small decisions that we make each day, or fail to make in many instances, can matter especially when millions of people making the same poor decisions.

  32. Hi Jon,

    Thank you. Water is one of our most important resources, and we do continue to take it for granted in so many ways. While most of my posts are about search engines and patents and papers, I think it’s important to write about some other issues that I feel strongly about in the hope that they will get others to think about them as well.

  33. this post has hit a nerve with me. Just been to India in the summer and they had a drought in my grandmothers village. People had to literally walk 5 miles with big buckets to collect water from the govt funded wells. By the time they got back to the village, 10-15% of the water was evaporated. really sad to see.

  34. Hi Brendan,

    Thank you for sharing your experience. We take natural resources like water so much for granted when we really shouldn’t. This is a problem that will likely get worse rather than better for many around the world.

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