We use a lot of water every day, even though fresh water is very valuable. There is far too little of it in the world. For millions of people, water is therefore as valuable as gold.
Major lack of fresh water in southern Africa
No running water, no shower, no pool, no mineral water. This is unimaginable to us, but in many other countries a lack of water is a daily occurrence. There is a particular shortage of water in the African countries located south of the Sahara: Ethiopia, Nigeria and Chad. There is virtually no fresh water there because it hardly rains. The soil dries out quickly and the groundwater seeps deeper and deeper.
Water is a precious commodity for many
Residents often have to walk for miles to get water from small pools or streams for cooking or washing. On average, only one in two people here has sufficient drinking water. And without water nothing can survive, no plant and no animal. For many people, water is as precious as gold.
Salt water in abundance
In fact, there is an abundance of water on earth. Only the majority of that water is salt water, more than 97 percent. And humans and animals cannot drink that, because salt removes moisture from the body, which will dehydrate. Fresh water, on the other hand, is unevenly distributed on Earth. Fresh drinking water makes up only a very small part of the total water supply on earth, about three percent! But even that little fresh water would suffice for all people if it were evenly distributed over the earth.
Standing in line for clean drinking water
A water shortage also occurs when there is too little clean water available. Poor countries often do not have the money to build treatment plants to clean dirty or bacteria-contaminated water. Worldwide, approximately 4,000 children die every day because they drink contaminated water and become ill.
People are not sufficiently aware of the value of water
To make people aware of water as the most important nutrient, there is even a “World Water Day” and a “World Water Week” every year. Experts then discuss what needs to be done to ensure that everyone has access to clean water.
Why do we speak of fresh water?
Although water from rivers, lakes and streams is referred to as fresh water, it does not taste sweet at all. We call it fresh water to indicate the contrast with salt water. It contains no or very little salt. Rainwater is fresh water, just like the water in the soil, i.e. groundwater. Ice is also fresh water, the glacial ice in the polar regions even represents the largest part of the total supply of fresh water.
Water indispensable for every life
Water is everywhere: in the oceans, in rivers and even in plants. And we humans also consist largely of water. When we sweat, we excrete water. Therefore, the water supply in our body must be replenished regularly. A person can live for several weeks without food, but not without water.
In the Netherlands there are strict rules for drinking water. The health authorities continuously assess the quality of drinking water to ensure that the drinking water that comes from the tap is really clean. If our water contains bacteria, we can become ill and suffer from diarrhea, for example.
High quality tap water in the Netherlands
Our drinking water should not smell and it should be colorless. It is even prescribed that the tap water must be cold, because lukewarm water does not taste good to most people and bacteria thrive better in it.
In some countries it smells like a swimming pool when water comes out of the tap. Just like in the swimming pool, chlorine has been added. Chlorine disinfects the water, causing germs and bacteria to die. But the amount of chlorine is much lower than in the swimming pool. Although the water tastes different than we are used to, it quenches thirst just as well.
Water is an essential necessity of life
Since we cannot live without water, it is one of the essential necessities of life. It is even healthy: drinking water contains minerals such as calcium and magnesium, which are important for bones and muscles. Because our water is so strictly controlled, it is even healthier than many bottles of mineral water.
You should drink enough water
The great thing about water is that we can’t drink too much of it. After all, our body simply excretes the excess water. We do have to go to the toilet regularly.
Many people drink too little. At least two liters per day are needed. Those who drink less may get a headache or feel tired. Even thinking then becomes more difficult: our brains consist of 75 percent water and therefore constantly need replenishment.