Living Below the Line: Water

Last day of the challenge today!  I’m pretty excited  And to celebrate, I’m going to take a break from complaining about being hungry in order to focus on the fact that I’m not thirsty.

Or rather, to talk about water.

In the information pack for the challenge, participants are advised to stay well-hydrated by drinking two litres of water per day.  Water from the tap costs nothing in this challenge.   And this is, perhaps, the biggest difference between first-world poverty and the third-world variety.

Water is free – or if not free, precisely (she says, thinking about her recent water bill), freely available at the turn of a tap.

And not just any water – water that is clean and potable (unless you are in Adelaide) and doesn’t have to be boiled before use.

I drink a lot of water.  But I’ve also been thinking, over the last few days, about all the other ways I use water when cooking.  To soak beans.  To make stock.  To cook pasta or rice.  To steam or parboil vegetables, or to poach chicken.  To add to pasta sauces or casseroles that are about to stick.  To wash fruit and vegetables that I’m going to eat raw.  In breadmaking.  Cooking things in the slow cooker.

I’m sure I’ve missed some uses.  And some of the uses I’ve listed above involve boiling the water anyway, but not all of them do, and I feel a bit overwhelmed just thinking about having to boil water and cool it before I can even start washing vegetables or doing anything else.

For a real taste of exhaustion, now imagine having to go and fetch all that water from a pump or well or river before boiling it and using it.  Oh, and don’t forget that you will also need water to wash yourself and your clothes and to water your crops.

To be honest, water poverty is something I know very little about (even less than I do about food security, in fact).  I have, I suspect, the same general vague awareness that most Westerners would have that there are a number of third-world countries where people – particularly women – spend much of their day fetching water.  This is, of course, time that cannot be spent on getting an education, or growing crops, or running a business, or even doing household chores, and is thus a huge contributor to poverty in these countries.

As someone who studied history, I also have a quiet but nonetheless fervent gratitude for a first-world sewerage system that has turned water-borne diseases such as cholera into something one hears about on the news rather than experiences first hand.

So rather than writing an essay about water poverty when others have written far better ones already, I’m going to link below to three sites by people who know a lot more than I do on this topic, and better still, are doing something about it.

Just for a change, if today was the day you were going to sponsor me, I ask that you instead direct your donation to one of the organisations below.

The Water Project – working with local partners to provide closer access to clean water in Sub-Saharan Africa

End Water Poverty – focusing on the global sanitation crisis

Wello – creating a rolling water drum that can be used to transport larger quantities of water safely and easily.   I absolutely love this project!

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2 comments for “Living Below the Line: Water

  1. May 9, 2014 at 7:38 am

    stay well-hydrated by drinking two litres of water per day.

    This is actually one of the more disturbing parts of this to me.

    I need about four litres of water a day. On very rare occasions (mostly road trips with limited toilet access), I have had to restrict myself to 2L/day. After a single day on 2L, I have a constant nagging thirst that takes a day or two of drinking all the water I want to resolve. I’ve never had to go longer than one day.

    Having that perspective drives water scarcity home. It’s horrible enough, hearing about what some people have to do to get their 2L/day. But some of those people, I’m sure, are like me. Some of them have to work twice as hard as that to quench their thirst. Some of the people in rationing situations, getting precisely 2L per day and no more, are suffering terrible thirst the likes of which I hope never to know (and am very aware that I might one day know, if a natural disaster of sufficient intensity strikes).

    (When I think about it that way, it occurs to me that some of the people working with extremely limited food budgets must have unusually high metabolisms.)

    • Catherine
      May 9, 2014 at 11:30 pm

      That is pretty terrifying. And yes, I wondered about people with different metabolisms, too.

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