You’re Drinking Plastic, Science Says

You’re Drinking Plastic, Science Says

Trash piles up on shore. Credit: European Wilderness Society.

Envision plastic floating in the air all around you in tiny pieces. See it sitting on the top of your drinking water, in your food, and in your body. Dream of a world plastic-covered, with wrappers and garbage and small bits of it piling up on windowsills and in crevices. This is the current reality for ocean life, and it is beginning to become our human reality. 

A media-fueled uproar has occurred in the past five years in response. The plastic conversation, led mainly by the topic of plastic straws and bags, has aimed a spotlight on ocean pollution. Restaurants, coffee shops, and other straw-dealing businesses have ditched their plastic straws in an effort to combat the ocean-bound waste. Though banning plastic straws has helped the cause, some say it is a misplaced attempt to save the oceans and is simply a form of viral environmental consumerism

Plastics are not biodegradable. Larger plastics will simply degrade down to smaller forms to the point of being considered microplastics. Plastics that are less than 5 mm in length are considered ‘micro,’ and these are the most prevalent form of waste found in the oceans (NOAA). As microplastics get smaller and smaller, they are harder to detect by scientists. They often float to the bottom of the ocean floor.

Commercial Fishing and Microplastics

The relationship between microplastics and commercial fisheries is prominent from fishing boat to food market. 

As previously mentioned, the breakdown of larger plastic products into smaller components creates microplastics. It has been previously thought that much of the ocean’s waste comes from consumer packaging plastic, which holds true today. What scientists are just now discovering is that the truth of much microplastic waste is not a fisherman’s tale but is a tale of fishermen. 

Commercial fishing contributes heavily to ocean microplastics. The basis of much of this waste comes from nets, and namely old, deteriorating ones. Smithsonian Magazine reports that new and one-year-old synthetic ropes potentially release 20 microplastic fragments for every yard hauled in the ocean—and that this number climbs exponentially with older equipment. New Atlas estimates that with every meter of old rope hauled in, over 760 fragments of microplastics are released into our sacred oceans. 

Fish are consuming microplastics in every ocean of the world. In Science of the Total Environment, researchers found that aquatic life consumes microplastics in two main ways: actively and passively. While actively consuming microplastics, aquatic life confuses plastics for natural prey, and while passively, particles filter through any openings in the animal. 

When we eat fish and other marine organisms, we risk ingesting these microplastics. According to the Washington Post, a calculation found in June 2019 revealed that for Americans, by just eating, drinking, and breathing, they’re consuming up to 74,000 microplastic particles per year. Another study by the University of Newcastle in Australia estimated that people consume about 5 grams of plastic per week, which is the equivalent of about 3 playing cards. 

What do Microplastics Mean for Your Water?

We’re drinking a variable amount of microplastics in each sip we take from plastic bottles, new research by Orb Media states. Bottled water tested from several sources around the world for microplastics confirms microplastic contamination. Tests on more than 250 bottles from 11 brands show contamination with plastic including polypropylene, nylon, and polyethylene terephthalate (Orb Media, PET). For each liter of bottled water, approximately 10.4 microplastic particles were present. The sizes of these particles were about 100 micron, or .10 mm. At an even smaller level, there were about 314.6 particles per liter located by the industry-standard infrared microscope. 

Research is emerging about the physical harm that microplastics could provoke within humans. We discard many of these particles in waste, but that some are so small that they remain within us. A journal by Scientific Reports suggests that plastics found in fish are likely the direct cause of observed behavioral disorders within those fish.

Let’s Fix It

It may not be possible to completely ‘fix’ the microplastics problem. However, there are some ways to eat and drink differently so that your body may become more plastic-free, as well as ways to help rid our Earth of plastic. 

1. Plastic Bottle-No-More. Filter Your Water. 

Our partner, Business Connect, has several affordable at-home water filter options so that you may avoid risking ingesting microplastics. Their VF100 water filter is a .1 micron filter which meets and exceeds EPA and WHO world standards for filtration. Water filters are the best way to ditch plastic bottles, and they’ll last years longer than disposable items like bottles.

2. Eat Less Fish. 

Try to reduce your consumption of aquatic foods. Plastics exist in up to 386 aquatic species (Ecowatch). Therefore, there isn’t one right fish to buy. When you buy less fish from the market, you are also not feeding into the commercial fishing and netting industry. Many fishing vessels, of the 4.6 million afloat in the world, have illegally dumped old nets and gear for years. This is a problem that will not float away.

3. Don’t Throw Away Your Clothes. 

Clothing fiber is made up mostly of nylon, polyester, acrylic, and other synthetic fibers. A 2017 report states that up to 35% of microplastics in our oceans come from synthetic fabrics. Before you throw your clothes out, consider donating them or reusing them for other purposes. 

Help Us Help You

The problem of microplastics is one of your water, and therefore one of your health. We care about your water situation, no matter the need, as well as your health. Connect with us. If you subscribe to our weekly newsletter, you can get updates about blog posts and happenings in the world of water. We want you to stay informed of everything we’re up to, so you may be included in alleviating the world’s water crisis.

Clean Water & Mental Health

Clean Water & Mental Health

Anyone who’s consumed bad food has experienced unfortunate and miserable outcomes. It’s a lesson learned that putting bad substances in your body results in bodily harm. Same goes with water. Studies show that the human body is 70% water—that’s a lot of water! Fortunately for us, we need it as it’s the fuel that makes everything run as it should, including our brains. Like bad food, bad water can cause issues that affect mental health.

I remember growing up traveling the world; mother would always tell me whether or not I could drink the water. I never understood this, wasn’t water, water? Of course I understood that when water didn’t run clear, it meant that it wasn’t drinkable, or rather, consumable. But there were places where the water ran clear and my mother told me not to drink it. 

It wasn’t until years later in a chemistry class that I fully comprehended why being careful about water, no matter its transparency, mattered.

Contaminators & Effects

“Get out your periodic tables,” my teacher said. “We must look at contaminators to understand why drinking contaminated water is bad for mental health.” 

One by one he listed different elements—“Inorganic arsenic, PCE (organic solvent tetrachloroethylene), lead, mercury…”—before diving into their negative effects.

“All of these things,” he continued, “affect our mental wellbeing. They can cause depression, a deep sadness that steals joy and interests away. A result can be anxiety. Anxiety is when someone is constantly worried. Another is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, also known as PTSD. Symptoms are triggers, usually sense-induced, that brought back to painful memories. Some people even experience bipolar disorder. This disorder causes intense mood swings that range from depression to a manic state.” 

As I sat in my chair taking notes, it occurred to me how important drinking clean water is not only for your body but your mind. 

Mental Health’s Effect On The Brain

Mental illnesses, as many of us know, causes a wide range of problems. Some effects include severe emotional, behavioral, and physical issues including brain damage.  

According to Stone Ridge, when anxiety disorder is left untreated: 

The brain doesn't return to a sense of normalcy when the stress, threat, or danger is gone. Instead, anxiety disorders can trigger your brain's fight or flight mode even when there's no perceived danger. 

This can lead to becoming hypoactive to non-existent threats that over time, make it hard for the brain to reason rationally. 

Depression can lead to brain shrinkage and inflammation. When the brain shrinks, memory loss, stress, rational thinking, emotions, and an irregular sleep pattern can occur. And when brain inflammation occurs, it can lead to severe symptoms and chronic issues such as confusion, seizures, speech or hearing problems, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.

The effects of bi-polar disorder, however, can reduce the amount of gray matter in the brain. Gray matter helps process information such as thoughts and feelings, controls impulses, and helps with motor skills. 

When concerning Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), according to a Very Well Mind, can cause damage to the amygdala. This area assesses threats, the formation of emotional memories, and memories. It also affects the prefrontal cortex that is responsible for emotional regulation, decision making, and regulating attention. Other effects of this disorder result in the damage of the mid-anterior cingulate cortex that regulates emotions, registering physical pain, and autonomic functions.

Perception of Mental Health

After my new found knowledge on clean water’s benefits for mental health, I thought everyone should drink clean water. Who doesn’t want good mental health? But then I realized that many countries and cultures, however, perceive mental health differently. For instance, in the western world, it is more acceptable to talk about mental health. But in other places, it’s still considered to be stigmatized, shameful, and wrong. This could be the result of a lack of awareness and mental health professionals. In many areas, religious beliefs are what fills in the holes for science.

Clean Water Is No Where

Another misconception I believed when I was younger was that clear water meant clean. I also believed that developing countries faced water contamination and the water crisis. I was wrong. Technologically advance counties also struggle with these issues.

More than 30 million Americans lived in areas where water systems violated safety rules at the beginning of last year, according to data from the Environmental Protection Agency. Others simply cannot afford to keep water flowing. As with basically all environmental and climate issues, poor people and minority communities are hit the hardest

Time, 2020

The Flint, Michigan Water Crisis is the perfect current-event example of the clean water crisis in the United States. During 2014 to 2019, the city of Flint faced a clean water crisis that its residents without clean water. As read in the Detroit Free Press, while the crisis has ended, the contaminated water and crisis itself contributes to the decline of the residents’ mental health. 

But the issue doesn’t stop at Flint. In 2020, Vox covered how the COVD-19 pandemic highlighted water contamination and crisis in the U.S. The news website writes of the multiple rejected claims for clean water as bottled water was being bought out everywhere. This event, I learned, left thousands of people in a water crisis.

What We Can Do

If you’re like me who can get overwhelmed by thinking about the mental health and the water crisis, fortunately there are things we can do. 

1.) First and foremost is to educate ourselves and others around us on contaminated water’s effect on mental health. I strongly believe that in order to find a solution, identifying the problem is crucial. 

2.) Invest in a water purifying product to help ensure safe drinking water for our mental health. Our partners at Business Connect offer various water treatment and filter systems to ensure safer drinking water. 

3.) Be an advocate for those without safe drinking water. Whether it be for a far off community in a developing nation or in your own community, adding to the noise to demand for basic human rights helps make the voiceless heard.

Our Earth Day Focus: Water Scarcity

Our Earth Day Focus: Water Scarcity

Earth Day reminds some of us making a chocolate layered dirt and worms dessert in school as children. Some are reminded of the phrase, “Ok, Boomer,” echoing in their ear. And for others, memories of the very first Earth Day come flooding back. Whatever the memory the annual day brings, it’s a reminder of our responsibility to create a sustainable life and future. 

On Earth Day, many organizations and companies make their voice known about one particular environmental issue that is close to their heart. Some might be deforestation, climate change, or the genocide of animal species. At Connect For Water, our Earth Day Focus is what we know best: water. Because our company ethos is to fight the water crisis, we thought it appropriate for our Earth Day focus to be on water scarcity. But before we dive right in, we must define what it is -what is water scarcity?

Water Scarcity is the lack of sufficient available water resources to meet the demands of water usage within a region.

Science Daily

Water Scarcity can mean scarcity in availability due to physical shortage, or scarcity in access due to the failure of institutions to ensure a regular supply or due to a lack of adequate infrastructure.

The United Nations

To put it simply, it means that mankind is using up more water than the earth has time to give. 

Different Numbers, Same Problem

Before we go any further, we recognize that there are different ways to calculate water scarcity. However, understanding that the problem remains the same is crucial. 

It’s ironic that the earth is facing a water scarcity with 71% of its surface area being in water. It makes the nickname “Blue Planet” appropriate.  The unfortunate truth, however, is that while only 3% of that water is fresh and consumable, less than 0.5% of consumable water is accessible.

So what does 0.5% look like? If measured in galons, the earth has 326 trillions gallons of water. 3% of that is 9.7 trillion gallons, 0.5% is 1.6 trillion gallons, and according to the Bureau of Reclamation, that equates to 2.2 million gallons for each person. 

Humanity’s Water Consumption

At first glance, 8.5 million liters (2.2 million gallons) for each person on earth doesn’t seem to be too much, but when you add up the water usage of each person, things get a little tricky. Human water usage goes beyond drinking water, showering, and flushing the toilet – it involves productions and infrastructures with agriculture at the top of the list. High Tide Technologies states that on average:

Farms around the world account for 70% of all water that is consumed annually. Of that 70% used by farmers, 40% is lost to the environment due to poor irrigation systems, evaporation, and overall poor water management. 

That’s a lot of water and unfortunately, it doesn’t end there. The garment and textile industry takes second place using 79 billion cubic meters of water per year to produce garments and textiles. The list continues with meat production in third place, the beverage industry in fourth, and automotive manufacturing in fifth. 

Global Warming’s Effect On The Water Cycle & Water Scarcity

Unfortunately, another reason for water scarcity is global warming with its effect on the water cycle. The water cycle, as we all have learned, is essential to life on earth. It affects our weather, ecosystem, water levels, and much more. But due to higher temperatures, massive deforestation, and pollutants, the cycle is changing for the worse, in a way that will greatly affect our water supply. 

The Water Cycle As We Know It

Step 1: Evaporation
Water evaporates from bodies of water such as the ocean, sea, lakes, and rivers. Transpiration, which is when water evaporates from trees and other vegetation, also happens during this stage.

Step 2: Condensation
Evaporated water turns into water vapor that rises up into the atmosphere and its particles condense together to form clouds. It then changes into the form of ice before falling in the form of rain or snow.

Step 3: Precipitation
Rain comes down due to temperature change, and if the temperature is below 0 degrees, the rain becomes snow. In some instances, it comes down as sleet or hail.

Step 4: Surface Runoff
As water pours down in either rain or melted snow, the liquid covers the surface of the earth, filling bodies of water and hydrating vegetation.

Step 5: Infiltration
The leftover water infiltrates deep below the topsoil, filling aquifers that help replenish different bodies of water. It is the top soil that allows for the moisture to be trapped. This water is drinkable and is considered to be the earth’s backup water supply.

What Is To Come

Step 1: Evaporation
Due to higher temperatures, evaporation quickens, adding moisture to the air which sucks up water from bodies of water and vegetation even faster.

Step 2: Condensation
The evaporated water rises into the atmosphere and its particles condense together to form clouds. Due to temperature and wind changes, condensation will be heavy in some places and lighter (and sometimes next to none) in others.

Step 3: Precipitation
Because of the change air in temperatures, the areas where precipitation will occur will be drastic, leaving some areas too wet and others too dry. When precipitation occurs, heavier and warmer rain will increase as well as heavier snow falls.

Step 4: Surface Runoff
Because the water will be warmer, heavier runoffs will be experienced causing landslides that, aside from too much rain, will destroy crops, animals, and infrastructure. Topsoil will also be stripped away. The runoff will carry pollutants that will contaminate bodies of water including humanity’s drinking water. The temperatures of oceans, lakes, and rivers will increase resulting in an overgrowth of algae that will suffocate fish and destroy marine ecosystems. The ocean will increase in acidity causing major changes in ocean currents that can alter weather patterns across the globe.

Step 5: Infiltration
Because topsoil will be stripped away, the ground will not be able to retain moisture for vegetation, and the aquifers will no longer be able to hold water to help replenish bodies of water. This will lead to droughts. We are then left with a cycle of flooding and drought. Every time it floods, more soil will be stripped away, causing evaporation to quicken each time, leaving the ground worse than before.

Consequences of Water Scarcity

Consequences of water scarcity are as vast as they are disastrous.

We know that water scarcity combined with climate change results in a disastrous cycle of extreme drought and downpour. It can also result in severe weather changes such as heat waves,wildfires, hurricanes, and tornados. 

However, the consequences of water scarcity itself can result in much, much more. The lack of drinking water is obvious. As a result, a drastic change in the economy follows suit as prices in water and food increase. This will cause third world countries to suffer first. Poverty and hunger will also increase at an alarming rate. There will be destruction of habitats as well as mass migration, forcing everyone to move to a water supply. Other issues consist of sanitation issues and the spread of disease. The United Nations International Children’s emergency Fund (UNICEF) states that “When water is scarce, sewage systems can fail and the threat of contracting disease like cholera surges. Scare water also becomes more expensive.” 

Living in an inhabitable world is worst case scenario.

Be The Solution

Luckly, we have a chance to stop water scarcity before it’s too late, but we must act quickly. 

First and foremost, we must educate ourselves and those around us on water scarcity. We must know its causes and effects to understand how to fix it. We then must change our lifestyles to become water conservationists – doing everything in our ability to conserve water. One of our authors, Julia Hall, wrote an article titled article titled 4 Hidden Ways to Conserve Water. There, among other sources, people can get conservation ideas. Other solutions include being innovative and part of teams that create new conservation technologies, being vocal in community organizations and political powers.

If you want to learn more about water conservation, we encourage you to follow us on our social media sites and stay informed by signing up for our newsletter!

Sierra Leone, Then and Now

Sierra Leone, Then and Now

Featuring commentary from our founder, Lou Haveman

Children gather on a bridge after school in Kroo Bay, one of the poorest and most vulnerable communities in Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown. Credit: EU/ECHO/Jonathan Hyams

Imagine carrying 5 buckets of water each day to and from your house: to bathe, to cook, and to drink—and then worrying about which bacterial infection you might receive. 

In the United States, this is something that is largely avoided. However, other countries around the world, such as Sierra Leone, struggle with access to clean water on a daily basis.

In Sierra Leone, the general population has extremely low access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), at just 16% of the population. Less than 1% of the population has piped water in their home. Low access to WASH contributes to health concerns such as diarrhea, acute respiratory illnesses, undernutrition and worm infestations. All of these can lead to death and many other health issues. (UNICEF).

Connect for Water founder Lou Haveman reflected on his time living in Sierra Leone. Haveman lived in Sierra Leone through part of the 1980s as well as in several other regions of Africa. 

Lou’s Recollection

“In that day, we didn’t think of clean water. I’ve regretted living (in Sierra Leone) at that point and time because here’s the thing: almost everybody had a chronic case of bacterial infection,” reflected Haveman.

While in Sierra Leone, Haveman and his team focused mostly on food insecurity, community development and literacy. All which are important issues—but dodge the root of many health concerns in the region: lack of clean water. However, water was not a major concern at the time because of the abundance of rainfall in the region. 

“If you know anything about the geography of Sierra Leone you know it’s high forests, lots of rainfall, 60 to 80 inches a year,” said Haveman. “So, lots of streams, lakes and a lot of rivers. The source of water for almost everyone was open wells, rivers and streams.” 

“If we had known what we know now, we could have gone in and just provided clean filtration or clean water and called it good, but we didn’t know that and we didn’t focus on water,” Haveman added. 

Present Day Sierra Leone 

‘What we know now’ is that much of the water in Sierra Leone is contaminated. Although rainfall and water is plentiful, the quality of that water is subpar. Therefore, access to clean sanitation is nearly impossible for the average household in Sierra Leone, bringing about waterborne disease. According to UNICEF and Haveman, much of the problem comes from poor infrastructure, which leads to human and animal defecation leaking into drinking water.  

Sierra Leone is a beautiful region, spotted with beaches, flourishing trees—it should have a stable, tourist-centered economy to support secure infrastructure—it does not. 

“Sierra Leone experienced a civil war for a number of years and a lot of the infrastructure that did exist was destroyed, including some water systems. Now there’s a higher population and more demand for water,” stated Haveman.  

This is the raw truth. Before the civil war, people lived in the countryside of Sierra Leone and access to clean water was plentiful. It bubbled out of springs and rushed down mountainsides. As the war began, people started to move to the capital, Freetown, and the population grew, but infrastructure did not improve (NPR). These people are now crammed into small brown villas with metal roofs, fighting off disease. 

As of now, many neighborhoods have implemented water kiosks. For a small fee, villagers can fill up their cans with water trickling from taps. In some areas of Sierra Leone, water kiosks are run by private companies with their own buildings. Many sources of water, though, are just pipes that run above ground or water collected from rivers and rainfall.

To our Network 

Here at Connect for Water, we aim to give hope to areas like Sierra Leone. Though it may be hard to envision this reality, it’s important to us that you’ve taken the time to read about it, so, thank you! If you want to hear more stories like this, join our network here. If you want to help us raise funds for those in Sierra Leone, go to our sponsorship page here

COVID-19 and WASH in Brazil

COVID-19 and WASH in Brazil

The Relationship Between the Global Pandemic and Availability of WASH Services and Products

Favela in Sao Paulo, Brazil where COVID-19 has hit hard. Image is overlooking hundreds of homes in favela with mountains and city in the distance

Around the world, everyone has been impacted by COVID-19. Whether it has been in a job situation, a family member having gotten sick, or has affected products that are available to you, there is not a single person who has not felt the impacts of the pandemic. Yet, COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) services in the global south.

Imagine you live in a favela – the slums of Brazil, where everyday life has become increasingly more difficult since the beginning of the pandemic. Your home is made out of salvaged materials like corrugated metal, sand, and concrete pillars. Homes are nearly stacked upon each other and are poorly insulated, making social distancing and privacy nearly impossible. You do not have running water in your home and must walk long distances in order to obtain freshwater.

This is Maria’s reality – a 40 year old, single mother, who had no choice but to move into one of these communities. Her experience may vary greatly from your own during the pandemic.

High Caseload

Sadly, Brazil has one of the greatest number of COVID-19 cases in Latin America, and over 626,000 deaths as of January 2022, according to SIWI (Stockholm International Water Institute) and Worldometer. Knowledge of proper handwashing as the best form of prevention has become prevalent during the last few years. Yet, PubMed states that availability of clean water and soap are often lacking in low-, middle- and high-income countries alike. Brazil, and countries like it, have been taking steps towards COVID-19 containment – protecting people like Maria and many others. They have done so by addressing the factors that impact availability of freshwater; educating communities on the importance of handwashing, along with providing essential products and services; and by focusing on recovery, maintenance, and prevention.

Water Scarcity and Inadequate Sanitation

Brazil, a country of 212 million people, currently has 1.2 million people without access to safe water and another 20 million without access to improved sanitation, as confirmed by Inequalities in both access to water and sanitation are impacted by varying levels of economic development – both in rural and urban areas. In rural areas, like where Maria lives, this means living without a flushable toilet or running water in her home, and generally higher rates of disease and infant mortality than in regulated urban areas. As unemployment grows, more move to the favelas of Brazil.

This is what happened to Maria and her son, Rafael, who now live in a favela just outside Sao Paulo. Up until the pandemic, Maria worked as a housekeeper at a local hotel. In the early months of the pandemic lock downs, many employees were laid off – Maria being one of them. She quickly fell behind on her bills and was evicted from her home. Her only option was to move her family to a nearby favela. In their new home, they were even more aware of the immense gap between rich and poor that has led to extreme differences in quality of living.

Things like climate change, how land is used, the quantity of water used for irrigation, and pollution heavily influence the availability of fresh water. Water scarcity is further impacted by situations such as population growth in urban areas and deficient sewage systems. Lower-income communities tend to be most affected and their health suffers as a result. 

The Importance of Handwashing

Hygiene products such as hand sanitizer, are sold out in most stores as well. Residents literally have to fight for the right to wash their hands. Maria, Rafael, and others in their community are among those who struggle to find hand sanitizer, and sometimes soap. Maria is aware of the dangers the pandemic poses, and is knowledgeable of good handwashing practices. Since soap is hard to come by, Maria must severely ration their supply for as long as she can.

According to The Harvard Gazette, washing hands with water and soap for at least 20 seconds creates friction that lifts and washes away microbes from the skin. WHO (World Health Organization) claims that properly washing your hands can prevent around half of all preventable infections, including COVID-19.

However, many people do not properly wash their hands – or are not able to do so during important times (such as after using the restroom or before preparing food). In Brazil, around 35 million people are unable to stay home and practice appropriate hand hygiene for their homes are without flushable toilets or running water. While many residents of favelas are mindful of safeguards to prevent getting sick, unreliable access to water makes them more susceptible to the virus.

This is what Maria and Rafael face in their home. Because there is no running water, she must make a somewhat treacherous journey, multiple times a day to access freshwater. Carrying the water back home is difficult for Maria. She must carry the water up a steep hill; on a good day she makes this trip 3 times. Around the world, in countries that encounter water scarcity, organizations such as Children International and the World Bank Group have made headway in combating COVID-19 by educating parents and children on the importance of routine hand washing and by securing fixed and portable handwashing facilities, soap or alcohol-based hand rubs, and reliable water supplies within various communities.

Reliable Access to WASH Services

Reliable access to WASH services is essential in containing and preventing transmission of diseases, including COVID-19. Preventing illness and their complications is not only cheaper for health systems, but also essential in ensuring their future. Combating the spread of antimicrobial resistance with proper handwashing and immunization helps to further reduce the burden on healthcare systems. Measures such as vaccination, diagnostic screening, and behavioral and lifestyle changes can reduce the need for hospital care and treatment while greatly improving disease outcomes.

Even though it is now common knowledge that prevention is the best way to fight pandemics like COVID-19, less than 3% of health budgets are dedicated to preventive measures, even in the higher-income countries like the United States. The inconsistency of clean water for many Brazilians makes handwashing a challenge. Residents of favelas wait on the government to make repairs, such as installing water tanks or sanitation systems, with the most vulnerable depending on support from their neighbors.

A Hopeful Future

Thankfully neither Maria nor Rafael have had COVID-19, but they have seen many in their community suffer. Maintaining, and in some cases implementing, public health infrastructure are among the greatest cost-efficient approaches in developing pandemic preparations, particularly in resource-constrained communities.

When families have running water in their homes and a flushing toilet, they are able to properly dispose of waste and practice proper hand hygiene. If WASH services and infrastructure are properly controlled during the recovery phase of a disease outbreak, secondary impacts like supply chain disruptions or panic-buying may be prevented. If not properly managed, these secondary impacts may amplify further the risks associated with water borne illnesses, in addition to COVID-19 (World Bank, 2020). 

Brazil has an ample amount of water, yet faces unfair distribution of water resources. Fair allocation of WASH services and products are critical in preventing and controlling illnesses like COVID-19. In conjunction with other protective measures such as physical distance and self-isolation, Brazil may actively mitigate the impacts caused by the pandemic, protecting Maria and millions of other people.

For families like Maria’s, being able to routinely access clean water and wash their hands can mean the difference between living well and simply surviving. You can make a difference in the lives of people around the world who do not have access to clean water. Become a water sponsor for $5 a month and you will be able to provide clean water for a family for 5 years. Follow along to learn more about the water crisis, share this article with a friend, and subscribe to our newsletter to stay informed!

4 Hidden Ways to Conserve Water

4 Hidden Ways to Conserve Water

As the water crisis develops worldwide, there has been an urge for you to take part in water conservation. Doing your part will help global efforts to reduce water consumption. Turn off the tap. You’ve heard this phrase often – don’t leave water running for too long, take shorter showers. These practices are wonderful and can save several gallons of water per day, but are the most obvious to put into practice. Listed below are some tips to conserve water even when it isn’t obvious!

1. Your Milk: Hopefully not Almond!

Almond milk has been awful for the world of water. Almonds are mainly grown and harvested in California, where land is continuing to be irrigated for the use of almond production. According to a New York Times article, it takes 15 gallons of water to grow just 16 almonds there. The natural lands harvested for almond farms are mostly wetlands, taking away natural water-rich systems from the state. Although almond milk is tasty, consider alternatives such as soy or oat. Soy, a great alternative post-workout, is packed with protein: a new version of it has almost 20g of protein per serving. 

2. Conserve with Mulch

If you have any trees growing around you, make sure they are circled by mulch. Mulch acts as a moisture holder for the soil underneath a tree, nurturing its roots. It also acts as defense against the sun, keeping a tree cool during hot periods of the day. Investing in mulch will allow you to water your trees less and will help them live longer. Mulch can help retain water in other plants such as bushes and flowers, as well. Also: it looks great! Easy landscaping, really! 

3. Take a Bath (If you Take Long Showers) 

If you are someone that takes long showers, consider taking a bath. Specifically, if you normally take twenty-minute showers, a bath would conserve more water, according to an article by Huffpost. One article from Cleveland Clinic adds that baths improve mental and emotional health, soothe muscle and joint pain, and heal wounds. Further research suggests that adding epsom salts to your bath can better soothe muscle aches. Pooling water instead of letting it run is practical in other situations, such as washing the dishes in a half-sink of soapy water. Think about these the next time you shower or wash dishes: you could save money on the water bill and better the planet! 

4. Fast Fashion: Dangerous for Water Consumption 

You may have heard the term ‘fast fashion’ being passed around environmentalist groups or in local buzz. It’s true: the fashion and textiles industry is a major contributor to water consumption and pollution. A study by the World Wildlife Fund shows that cotton (the main commodity used in textiles) is the second most water-intensive crop on Earth, consuming 7,000-29,000 liters of water per kilogram of cotton produced. Furthermore, Forbes suggests that the industry is a polluter at “all stages of the value chain,” from cottonfield runoff choking rivers with harmful algal blooms to releasing ‘cocktails’ of toxic chemicals, as well as the release of microplastics from washing clothes. Here is how you can help this mess: buy less, buy better quality, and donate or sell old clothes. Never throw away clothing you don’t want. If you must, dispose of old clothes in a textile waste bin. Another way to reduce your clothing waste is to rent, which is a growing business. Fashion is fun, but don’t get in the habit of buying cheap, and if you do, make sure to dispose of your clothes correctly. 

Overall, being conscious about your own water usage is important to making real change in the way people live. It could be the difference in someone else’s quality of life. These are just a few of the many water costs that come with living as a human on our planet! To be more mindful about your own water consumption, do research about trade-offs like these to better serve our wonderful rock in the Universe, and the people and animals who inhabit it. 

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