By JORGE ENCINAS
A United Nations “World Water Day” held annually on March 22 spreads the word about global residents who lack fresh drinking water due to inaccessibility, pollution and mismanagement of sources.
This year, Pima Community College instructor Mic Denfeld and her Writing 101 students supported the effort.
During a March 20-21 event that Denfeld called “H2 oh-no,” students presented informational displays at West Campus.
The project was designed to raise awareness, Denfeld said. “We discovered how ignorant we were, including me.”
The United Nations says 783 million people worldwide already lack access to fresh drinking water.
Water usage has grown at twice the rate of population increases over the last century, and the world’s population is projected to grow by 2 to 3 billion people over the next 40 years.
Organizers of World Water Day rely on international events and rallies to raise public awareness and spur leaders to take action through peaceful cooperation.
Pima student Jesse Tucker was surprised by the extent of the problem.
“So many people go without safe drinking water, I just never realized it before,” Tucker said. “We get wrapped up in our Americanized society.”
Denfeld called the statistics appalling.
“We figured out that in the 90 minutes that we’re in class, 270 children die in the world from disease directly related to water,” she said. “One of the things they get is dysentery, and it just kills them.”
The World Health Organization estimates that 1.5 million children under age 5 die annually from diarrhea. Most are from developing countries.
One solution is pumps that can draw water from underground sources, Denfeld said. The problem is that many people who need the pumps live in poor areas that cannot afford them.
Water shortages represent another issue. Diminishing water supplies affects Arizona directly, researchers say.
Of the top 10 U.S. cities that are running out of drinking water, Tucson ranked No. 8 and Phoenix was No. 3, according to a study published by 24/7 Wall St.
Some Pima students said they learned the value of conservation. One example: A five-minute shower uses more water than an average person in a developing country uses all day, according to the United Nations Development Programme.
“I take shorter showers and I’ve been getting on my roommates about it,” Tucker said. “They probably aren’t happy with me, to be honest.”
Student Jayson Davis said he was already conscious of the need to conserve water, but videos presented in class made him pay even closer attention.
“We’ve got to at least slow it down,” Davis said.
Students also studied “hidden” water use in agriculture and livestock.
The U.N. estimates that one person requires two to four liters of drinking water per day, but also needs another 2,000 to 5,000 liters of water to produce the food they consume in one day.
It takes 660 gallons of water to produce a third-pound hamburger, according to National Geographic.
“When you eat your hamburger, there’s an awful lot of water that’s gone into that production,” Denfeld said. “We don’t see it as using water, we see it as, ‘I’m having a hamburger.’”