Universal Access to Healthy Water is Crucial By hannah lesko

According to Water.org, 663 million people do not have access to healthy drinking water. In our society, clean water is always achievable because we always have it available. Thus, we forget about the good majority of the people that we share this planet with who struggle with finding safe water to drink on a daily basis. With this, how can we improve universal access to clean water?

THE HISTORY OF THE SEARCH FOR DRINKABLE WATER

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From the beginning, people tested water. The need for clean drinking water dates all the way back to the 15th and 13th centuries B.C. At first they tested it by the taste, until the first filtration systems were invented. Filtration systems were used by the Egyptians, the Greeks, and the Romans. As societies expanded and people discovered new ways to purify their water, they realized the necessity of it and found their own techniques and ways of doing so. Scientists began searching for these news techniques while education about drinking clean water increased. The need and education of clean water became more prevalent as time went on. Sand filtration was introduced to Scotland and then in the USA years later in 1880. it was not until the 19th century until water purification became a big deal and people started to realize that the water they consumed greatly impacted their overall health and well being. Although water purification has come a long way, there are still many people and countries to this day who do not have access to these techniques and resources. These people then face dehydration and other water-borne illnesses because there is no water or only unhealthy water to drink.

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PRIORITIZING THE NEED FOR CLEAN WATER FOR EVERYONE IN EVERY COUNTRY AND SOCIETY

The majority of the people in the United States today do not have to worry about when they will get their next drink of drinkable and healthy water. In the United States, we can stop at a store to buy a water bottle, there are water fountains in parks, along biking and running paths, and in most public places where we can grab a quick drink or fill up our water bottle. Since the access to healthy water is seemingly everywhere, we do not have to worry about it. We forget about those who struggle to find enough water to get them through one day, as we dump water from our bottle just because it is warm, or we pay to go to water parks, and purify our toilet water. People think that unsanitary water only exists in third world countries. This is false because there are many cities in our own country who struggle from not having drinkable water access. The unhealthy water in these places cause residents to obtain water-borne illnesses such as cholera, typhoid, and other bacterial/viral diseases that cause harm to the person and the infrastructure to that society as a whole. The first way to improve access to clean water is by prioritizing the need for clean water for the residents over other considerations in a community or a society. Council, state, or governmental officials who decide to cut costs on providing great water filtration systems and purification methods often times backfires and does more harm than good. For example, If officials decide to cut out appropriate clean water supplies and put the money towards other costs such as building new neighborhoods and roads, for example Flint Michigan, those who are at stake are the people who live in that city or community. Today, Flint has still not recovered from their water crisis and lead is still in their water and affecting the entire city and their residents. The city's initial hope of saving money by switching the water supply backfired on their city's official's actions and the health of the entire city is now declining. Many now face lead problems in their systems. The health of their well being will be changed significantly because clean water plays a major role in any person’s life. As one can see, the importance of clean drinking water plays a bigger role than a community being affected by dehydration. With this, the entire infrastructure of the community falls as well.

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DIGGING MORE WELLS WILL IMPROVE UNIVERSAL WATER ACCESS

Although some people rely on city water, other rely on well water for drinking and domestic use such as cleaning and using the bathroom. While well water can be through pipes leading to faucets, other times water wells can be man made in order for that family or community to have unlimited and cheaper access to their water. By digging more wells, this increases the number of people who will have water healthy water. In countries where one village each has its own well, this is extremely useful when it comes to drinking, cooking, and cleaning because it is less expensive and they have all the water that they need. According to the University of California, creating water wells provides, “Good quality water with proper protection from contamination, have a long lifetime from up to 50 years, and have reasonable short-term and long-term costs”. This gives the owner or the villagers of the well a great water resource for a great price for a sustainable amount of time. According to the United States Department of the Interior and the United States Geological Survey, “{Wells} provide drinking water for more than 97 percent of the rural population” for those who cannot afford to receive city water. Those who have purified water and over look well water today because they think it is beneath the water they drink should not disregard this great way of getting water to people in need. Those who have never been in a situation without water should step up and look at it from others point of view and their daily struggle.

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PROVIDING FILTERED WATER SUPPLY TO THOSE WHO NEED IT

The third way we could improve access to clean water is through giving filtered water jugs to communities who do not have a way of obtaining healthy water. For example, organizations like Global Medical Brigade’s Water Brigade has workers and volunteers take safe water into communities that do not have access to clean water. By giving them this luxury, it not only supplies them with what they need, but this organization also gives the education on clean water drinking practices and the value of clean water itself. People in these struggling communities understand that water should not be taken for granted because they are giving a limited amount based on their needs. Unlike privileged societies that we live in, these communities do not know exactly when their next delivery may be and what extremes they may have to go to in the time being if or when they run out of their safe water resources. Countries in Central America such as Honduras, have people who live on very limited and small budgets for themselves and their family. When these people run out of drinkable water, they then have to spend their limited paycheck on water, which they usually cannot afford. This results in higher dehydration and obesity levels because the people are buying soda and other carbonated beverages, which are cheaper than water, to quench their thirst. By having water shipped to people who need it, this not only gives them safe water, but also hope and something to look forward to in their life. This also circulates the economy by creating new jobs and increasing the employment rate within the water company and the companies that help deliver the water to the final destination.

THE EXPERIENCE THAT CHANGED ME

After traveling and helping four different communities in Honduras for nine days, completely opened my eyes to our society and how wasteful we are with the water we have. We take advantage of water in ways such as creating water parks, watering our grass, and just dumping out our bottles because the water is not the perfect temperature. After seeing what the people in Honduras have to endure on a daily basis, I feel guilty complaining about my own life. People live in houses built of mud, sticks, or plastic. They keep their water in unsanitary buckets that are open outside where all the wild chickens, dogs, and cats roam around freely. They have to boil their water before using it because it is filled with harmful bacteria and parasites. Since there is such a lack of water, brushing their teeth is the last task on their list to do because they do not want to waste the only water they have. Due to the lack of dental hygiene and care, the majority of the population has mouths full of decayed teeth and cavities. A tooth that gets that bad to a certain point can not only harm the mouth and gums, but infections can happen and travel to the brain as well. In Honduras when I was put on dental rotation, I saw teeth extractions all day. One woman had to have six teeth pulled and it took over an hour just for one tooth. This is all due to not having safe water available to each community. These problems would not exist or would greatly decrease if the access to healthy water increases and greatly improves in countries like Honduras.

All the while, the things we complain about most of the time do not compare to what people there have to deal with. The mentality of the things we want and think are 'needs' in the United States does not even come close in comparison to the wants and actual needs in the daily life of Honduras. These people struggle with money, holding jobs, and basically living on a day to day basis as they dehydrate in the heat everyday.

After spending a lot of time with the people living in the communities, especially the children, you realize that even though you do not speak the same language and there is a language barrier, the respect that I showed them and they showed me, proves that humans are all alike and need to help each other no matter where they are from or whatever language they speak.

When spending three straight days with the children in dental rotation, you come to feel for these kids. I gained a massive amount of respect for them because I could never live the way they do and I could never imagine not being able to go to high school because I could not afford the bus to take me to the nearest big city which was hours away. I could not imagine waiting and seeing a doctor only twice a year when it was free and it was not in a real hospital but in a beaten up old school with groups of volunteers coming to give the health screenings. Although it seems miserable the way these children live, they act the far opposite of it. These children are kind, caring, and love teaching you spanish vocabulary. They love to laugh at your funny accent and give you personal items of theirs as though they want you to take a little memory of them back home. They also love to teach you games in spanish and you play along having no idea what the words mean. These children are the most toughest and happiest children I have ever seen in my life, yet they live in complete poverty and do not have access to clean water. After spending days with the children and bonding with them, you do not want to leave them behind in the state that they live in. You want them to have the absolute best in the world. That is why I am so passionate about going back and telling others so we all can volunteer, donate, and help this cause of improving universal water access.

In the end, men, women, and children are all affected by not having access to clean water, which directly reflects back to the infrastructure of society in Honduras. Seeing how these people live and how not having safe drinking water affects them in all sorts of ways physically and mentally, formed the passion to further my public health education and help make drinkable water be available across the globe.

Photos by Hannah Lesko

HOW YOU CAN TAKE ACTION

How can we improve the access to clean water is a question that affects and applies to the entire world. The importance of having a clean and safe water supply is beneficial to any society. Water is a life sustaining substance that every human needs. Having unsafe water to drink and cook with impacts those who are using it because an entire community is affected by it and it lowers its productivity and developmental state.

By becoming aware that people are struggling with not having safe water to drink is the first step to helping. After this realization, there are many organizations that take volunteers and donations to help provide drinkable water to third world countries. Maybe instead of taking a luxurious vacation, instead, go on a global water brigade and help deliver water to poverty struck communities. There are many other options other than this example but the point is, anyone can make a change in the access to clean water in the world as long as they try.

Works Cited

  • "About Water.Org: Learn About The Cause." Water.org. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Apr. 2017.
  • CBCTheNational. YouTube. YouTube, 06 Mar. 2017. Web. 23 Apr. 2017.
  • UNICEFUSA. YouTube. YouTube, 02 July 2014. Web. 23 Apr. 2017.
  • Weareworldchange. YouTube. YouTube, 03 Dec. 2014. Web. 23 Apr. 2017.
  • WHO MEDIA CENTRE. "Drinking-water." World Health Organization. World Health Organization, Nov. 2016. Web. 23 Apr. 2017.
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Hannah Lesko
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Created with images by aka Kath - "Drink" • isawnyu - "Deir el-Haggar, Entrance Relief (XII)" • stux - "fountain stone trough moss" • 947051 - "water pump old man" • Franck_Michel - "Cristal clear"

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