October 30, 2011
As privileged students at USC, we often fail to notice how much water is used in our daily activities and around us, and we take for granted our access to it. For example, for our drinking needs, we have water fountains in every building, and water bottles are sold in vending machines and food stations on campus, allowing us to have access to water within every hundred feet. In addition, water is used in many of the aspects of USC that we could not imagine our campus without. Our lawns, trees, and plants would not be green without being watered regularly, not to mention the various fountains found on campus for aesthetic pleasure.
As Americans, we use a substantial amount of water a month, 3.9 trillion gallons to be exact (AWWA Journal, June 2006). The average American uses 176 gallons of water in one day alone. We could not imagine our lives without water being available with the simple twist of a tap. However, the rest of the world is not as fortunate as we are. In contrast to us, the average family living in Africa only uses 5 gallons of water a day, and about 1 billion people around the world do not even have access to clean drinking water. Many people in third world countries, mostly women and children, walk miles to sources of water that are unclean and will eventually make them sick. However, the problem of water scarcity seems so far away to us because water is so readily available; we expect it to be provided by the government without any thought to where it comes from or how much we are using.
It is easy to think of clean and safe sources of water as a right, because most Americans have almost always had access to it. As shown by the statistics above, we are among the lucky few who have been lucky enough to have access to clean water sources. But it is also easy to fall into the trap of expecting these resources, and treating them as a right. Access to clean and safe water sources is not a right; if it was, we would not have such a large problem of people suffering from the lack thereof even in the United States. Rather, it should be treated as a privilege, and we should instead be humbled by the continuous availability of flowing water. This is imperative to our ability to sustain our water. If everyone assumes that water is ‘there for the taking’, before long we will find ourselves without our most valued resource.
We need to realize that there could easily be a day where water does not automatically flow from the tap, and that we may begin to become an area such as African countries, where water scarcity is a serious and imminent problem. We need to respect the access we currently have to clean and safe water as a privilege and appreciate more what we are currently taking for granted.
http://eyeswideopen.me/water/ (hyperlink ‘average family living in Africa’)
www.water.org (hyperlink ‘176 gallons of water’)
About the authors: Stephnie John and Neelam Savla are working towards their bachelor degrees in the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.