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Importance of Water Rights, Words from an Activist

Importance of Water Rights, Words from an Activist

Any living organism needs water to survive. Based on that point alone, water should be seen as a human right.  As humans, having access to clean, sustainable drinking water gives us life.  

Clean water allows us the privilege to consume water without harmful microorganisms or toxins inside.  It allows us sanitation for toilet use, showering, washing clothes, and cooking.  How many times a day do we flush our toilets not even thinking of the high number of people on a global level who lack these privileges?  The same can go for walking downstairs in our homes 20 feet from our sinks to fill a cup of water when we’re feeling thirsty.  How often do we not think about women and children in impoverished countries who have to walk miles back and forth each day to fill buckets of water to continue on with their lives? Reasons such as these should make those of us more fortunate both grateful and appreciative to be able to live a good quality of life thanks to safe, potable drinking water.

While we should be thankful each and every day to have access to potable water, each year’s #WorldWaterDay is a time designated to recognize that thankfulness, as well as to remind ourselves of those who may not be as fortunate.  The current water crisis has much to do with the billions of people who do not have access to safe drinking water and toilets.  According to water.org, 663 million people (1 in 10 people on the planet!) lack access to safe water and 2.4 billion people (1 in 3!) lack access to a toilet.  Because of this, millions of people suffer from ill water related diseases such as cholera, typhoid, and dysentery.  It is usually these people who cannot afford or have the access to proper medical care to treat these water related diseases that end up sick and die from a poor quality of life. While facts like these are disheartening to hear, water.org and numerous other organizations have outstanding goals for positive change and saving people’s lives.

A year ago, I had the privilege of completing a 2-month internship at University for Peace in Costa Rica where I worked on several projects pertaining to human rights, right to development, the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, as well as completing research comparing Costa Rica’s water regulations to those of the United States.  One of the best parts of that assignment was meeting and socializing with students that were completing their Masters at University of Peace and learning about their lives – many of them being born and raised in different countries, with varying access to clean, safe water.  The way individuals from other countries value this precious natural resource was very different from the way many of us do in the modernized West. There was also a correspondingly greater sense of the need for stewardship of water as a natural resource.  People in Costa Rica put a priority in recycling and not wasting water to preserve their natural resources.  Their consideration and care for water and eco-friendly actions were extremely admirable to me and I knew that I had to take these practices back home (to the United States) with me.  

Some things you can do to help even at the smaller levels?  One can always start by being a tad bit more conscientious about how we use water bottles, and how much.  I try my hardest to live by the “refills not landfills” statement.  Purchase a reusable water bottle and refill with purified water instead of grabbing a water bottle and not recycling afterwards.  Or, if you must grab a plastic water bottle, read up on proper recycling methods.  Taking shorter showers, turning off the faucet while brushing teeth, and putting a carefully considering the issue of privatized water companies are all simple steps that you can take today to help achieve the goal of giving clean water access to people on a global scale, and even to future generations right where we live.  

Lastly, educating ourselves on the conditions of our water sources, regulations, and programs is critical.  If we want to advocate and contribute, staying properly informed is key.  Remember, if you think water is a human right to you – it’s a human right to us all. I’m glad Sevenly has teamed with water.org to help us all wear this story.

Visit the World Water Day Collection here.

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Written by Nathalia Gillespie, Guest Contributor

Previous University of Peace Fellow

M.A. in Social Work from Monmouth University, Current Academic Advisor at Rutgers University

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