By Mae Wu
Happy World Water Day, yall.
This is the day that we stop and consider the fact that we are very lucky. We have some of the safest water in the world and don’t have to trek miles from our homes just to find water to cook with and to drink. That’s not the case for billions of people around the world.
So to mark World Water Day, I’ve got a 2 part blog. Part 1 is something we as a country can do to help conserve and protect our drinking water. And it will instantly create new jobs today, immediately improve the health of communicates across the country, and benefit the environment. We need to bring our aging drinking water infrastructure up-to-date.
Stories about breaks in 70-year-old water mains and steam explosions from broken water pipes are a sampling of the serious problems we will face as our drinking water infrastructure begins to reach the end of its lifespan. But until these problems arise, the state of that complicated network of pipes, mains, storage tanks, and treatment systems supplying water to our communities remains “out of sight, out of mind.”
We lose an estimated 7 billion gallons of water a day from leaking pipes, with some cities losing as much as 30% of their water. At the same time, an often overlooked consequence of these cracks is that we are being exposed to an increasing number of waterborne diseases and contaminants sneaking in through those gaps. This means utilities face a double whammy as they try to provide both adequate and safe drinking water to their customers.
Upgrading our infrastructure would save trillions of gallons of water a year and make our water safer to drink.
But the best part is that, according to the American Water Works Association, there are already enough shovel-ready drinking water projects around the U.S. that would create work for more than 400,000 Americans, including almost 90,000 direct construction jobs – jobs that would be welcomed with open arms in towns and cities all across the U.S. In any other context, this would be a no-brainer.
The U.S. has some of the safest water in the world, but it will take some TLC to keep it that way.
Part 2 is about something we can do as individuals:
World Water Day – it’s a huge issue and is there anything one person can do to tackle such a big issue? Yes, and it’s an easy one: step away from the bottled water and go watch a movie.
We are in tough economic times and there are people all around the world unable to find safe drinking water, yet here we are spending billions of dollars on bottled water when we can get it for just pennies out of our tap. And the big surprise: bottled water may not be any safer, cleaner, or more pure than tap water.
On top of that, the energy costs that go into making the plastic bottle and shipping it either across the country or even across the globe (for those who love water from Pacific Island nations) are incredible. One study showed that bottled mineral water is responsible for more than 175 times more primary energy consumption, almost 170 times more crude oil use, and over 200 times more greenhouse gas emissions than tap water.
And since the vast majority of plastic bottles are not recycled, that plastic bottle you drank from for 5 minutes, ends up in a landfill for thousands of years.
For even more information, you can check out my testimony before the Senate on all the problems with bottled water.
But for something way more fun, you should check out the movie “Tapped” that goes through all of these issues and more. This is a great movie and is jam packed with information about why we need to stop our love affair with bottled water.
Also, our friends at Corporate Accountability International are working to get state governments to stop wasting precious tax money on bottled water. Like I mentioned earlier today, we can use all that money to fix our drinking water infrastructure and create jobs to boot.
So, as you go about your day today, think about how lucky we are to have some of the safest water in the world coming out of our tap. And think about how silly it is to throw good money away to buy a bottle of water.