Pawel Alva Nazaruk interviewed Ken Surritte of WATERisLIFE. They discussed the possibility of a clean glass of water becoming a luxury item in a hundred years from now as water shortages cause havoc worldwide. However, it is not all doom and gloom. On this article, we will take a look at how Ken Surritte is fighting the global water crisis, and what you can do to make sure water is available to everyone.
Who is Ken Surritte?
Ken Surritte is a philanthropist. He is also the Founder and CEO of WATERisLife, an organization that provides clean water, sanitation, and hygiene education programs to communities around the world. Whilst working in Kenya to provide an essential well for a children’s home, Surritte noticed that the children were still getting sick, and discovered that the source of the problem was the drinking fountain at the school. In actuality, this drinking fountain turned out to be a stagnant pond. This was the driving force behind Surritte to found WATERisLIFE. WATERisLIFE has the global goal of making sure everyone has access to clean drinking water, and of raising awareness that a water crisis impacts everyone.
What is the extent of the global water crisis?
In the interview, Surritte gave the harrowing statistic that currently 6,000 people die per day, due to not having access to clean drinking water-5,000 of these fatalities are children. It is of utmost importance, however, to know that there are two strands to the global water shortage issue. Some people in countries such as Afghanistan physically have access to no water which is the water scarcity strand of the crisis.The more prevalent strand of this issue is water purity. This is because, in countries such as Afghanistan (in certain areas), Ethiopia, Chad, Cambodia, Laos, Haiti, Ghana and India do have access to water – it is the quality of the water which is the issue. As a result, 80% of hospital patients in developing countries are suffering from waterborne diseases.
However, despite statistics being a useful method of measuring the impact of water scarcity empirically, sometimes it is the verstehen emotional aspects which truly hit home. As one fifth of all children in Sub-Saharan Africa die before the age of one, many parents do not name their children until they are approximately six months old to avoid upset. No parent should have to go through that relentlessly sanguine and emotionally destitute situation.
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This water crisis does not just impact developing countries. As the headline outlines, it is a global issue which can currently be seen in California. To combat California’s water shortage, a rather unsustainable approach has been taken, which may be more detrimental to the environment in the long-term. They are using desalination plants. These plants require large amounts of electricity to power. Consequently, they produce toxic waste which is dumped back into the sea. This is particularly dangerous to the ocean wildlife because it devastates the ecosystems, which could cause food shortages.
Why do we have a global water crisis?
First and foremost, the most prominent reason is that only 1% of water on the surface of the Earth is drinkable. Out of the remaining 99%, 2% is in the polar ice caps and the other 97% is in the oceans. In addition to this, on top of the fact that 1% of surface water is drinkable, an increasing population is also causing demand for water to rise to unprecedented levels. The United Nations predicts 9.7 billion people will inhabit the world by 2050, and resources such as water are scarce enough as it is.
Those are the natural causes. On the most part, though, the global water crisis is anthropogenic like other environmental issues such as climate change. Reasons for this range from pollution in reservoirs (a recent example of this would be the high levels of lead found in the water supply of Flint, Michigan) to sheer ignorance with regards to wasting water.
What would happen if we do nothing?
The majority of what would happen if we do nothing has already been outlined in the first section. To emphasise, water shortages are not just located in developing countries. It is an issue which has an impact on everyone, and can have serious ramifications on agriculture. The food industry is heavily dependent on water, and it takes hundreds of gallons of water to produce a single pound of beef.
What is the solution?
- Use less water
- Use less electricity as the pollution used to create it often ends up in water supplies.
- Use renewable energy sources – solar, wind, tidal, etc.
- Create more hydroelectric dams as they produce electricity and trap water.
- Make sure dishwashers are either fully loaded, or simply wash by hand.
- Flush toilet judiciously as one flush uses five gallons of water.
- Utilize rainwater more.
Why are we going to beat this global water crisis?
The answer to this pseudo-philosophical question is quite simply human nature. Robert Trivers postulated the notion of reciprocal altruism, in which humans do good towards other humans as it is their best interests for their own individual survival.
That is why I am sure, if you are reading this, you want to end suffering, but perhaps feel disenfranchised by the primarily negative media which seems to convey the message that there is nothing which can be done – forget that. You can do something and your actions do matter.
How are we beating this global water crisis already?
Ken Surritte has created numerous innovations which are helping communities facing water scarcity. Some of these innovations are:
- Straw system – Portable and decontaminates water. Lasts approximately one year. It only costs $10.
- Home system – Nano filter kit which uses gravity and has the potential to decontaminate water for years. It costs around $45.
- Centralised water system – Runs on solar/wind power and provides purified rainwater/river water for thousands of families. 300 have currently been built across the world and all of them have passed their guarantee point of ten years. There are plans to introduce one of these into a slum in Kenya which has over one million inhabitants. This complex system costs $20,000.
Surritte also pointed out that drilling wells ($10,000 – $15,000) and desalination plants (non-governmental organisations such as WATERisLIFE receive a 50% discount on these, meaning they pay $500 instead of the retail price of $1,000) add to the vast repertoire of help available.
We can put a stop to this crisis. Even if you cannot afford to donate to WATERisLIFE, just monitoring your water usage and using it more efficiently will make a difference. No matter what anyone says, together we can make it so a human anywhere can go up to any river and drink from it without worry of dying due to contamination.
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