Like a shimmering oasis the city of Riyadh rises out of the sand. Located in central Saudi Arabia the capital city is 250 miles from the nearest coast. Although the Arabian Peninsula is surrounded by water, humans cannot drink saltwater. Saltwater can be turned into drinking water through a process called desalination however, and desalination is increasingly used as global populations grow. When my husband and I visited Riyadh this past spring, one gallon of water cost three times a gallon of gas. We could see why. The population of the city has grown from 100,000 to over five million in the past century. To supply this precious resource seven desalination plants work to provide about 70% of the potable water for the use of its inhabitants. Desalination is a costly process that takes high energy though, deep underground aquifers and scarce ground water provide the rest. Our host told us that he had dug a well for a new home that he is building on the outskirts of the city. When he said that they had to dig 500 feet down to reach water, my husband jokingly asked if they had stuck oil as well.
I am getting parched just thinking about it, but our visit made me ponder the sustainability of the most valuable resource on our planet. I am not talking about oil. A human cannot live more than a week without water, and we lived long before the use of oil as an energy source was discovered. Water is life. Water can also be deadly if it is unsanitary, and thousands of children die each day from unsafe water and lack of sanitation facilities around the globe.
Our visit to Saudi Arabia was fantastic; we met wonderful people, and enjoyed copious amounts of delicious local cuisine. We loved exploring the diverse scenery, and the juxtaposition of modernity against ancient desert culture. The stark desert that we left behind upon takeoff was contrasted by a rainy landing in our verdant home state, which left us with a general concern about our worlds limited water resources. Oil and Water do not mix. My appreciation for water was renewed in that trip, as well as the understanding that the verdant landscape that surrounds our home and supplies our garden is a privilege of geography. That said with the reality of increasingly severe weather patterns it is all potentially subject to change. It is likely that water, like fossil fuels today, will be a determining factor of world stability in the future. With the knowledge that 884 million people around the globe lack access to clean water, a basic resource that so many of us take for granted, I was inspired to participate with The Mission List in the Water.org 10 Day Challenge. Ten days of awareness, and for each $25.00 donation, one person can be given safe water for life .
When you turn on the tap or flush the toilet do you think about what your life would be like without water? We all need it to survive and yet nearly 1 billion people in the world don’t have access to safe water and 2.5 billion people don’t have access to a toilet. It’s 2012, and yet more people have a cell phone than a toilet. These facts take a moment to settle in and can make people feel powerless against a problem so big. Yet, there is something we can all do to help. Alongside the non-profit, Water.org, I am joining others who are working to end this crisis in our lifetime. Only $25 brings one person water for life and for the next ten days I will be trying to raise enough money to help change the lives of ten people. I’d love for you to join me. For the next ten days I will be working with The Mission List to raise awareness, you can donate to my fundraiser , start your own fundraiser, or just learn more about the water crisis. Together we can make a difference.