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Sun Valley Institute for Resilience: Reflection on Water

Written By Connor Sheldon, Career Track MBA 2nd Year

Take a moment and examine what you are wearing. What are you holding? If you, like many individuals today, are wearing a shirt, shoes, pants, and carrying a smart phone in your hand then you should know: it took more water to manufacture what you are physically in contact with now than you will drink in your entire lifetime.

According to the World Wildlife Fund, it can take 713 gallons of water to produce the cotton needed to make a single t-shirt.¹ In Boise, Idaho, many people are distanced from the topic of water scarcity and unfamiliar with the water crisis that is impacting our world. However, the semi-arid ecosystem encompassing Boise and the Treasure Valley is experiencing decreasing levels in annual precipitation and both agricultural and urban development are decreasing the level of the Eastern Snake River Plain Aquifer: through excessive pumping and reduced recharge (refill).

In the past five years several publications have shared the link that exists between water scarcity and civil unrest around the world.² In fact, the World Economic Forum 2016 Global Risks Report cited water crises as the third most impactful risk for the years to come, just behind the failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation and weapons of mass destruction.³

What does this mean and why is it important? A Business Insider article cites a human can typically live for up to 21 days without food, whereas a human can only survive about a week without water.⁴ Human cells need water. What is curious is that humans also consume copious amounts of non-obvious or invisible water. For example: it takes water to produce the apple in a lunch, it takes water to grow coffee beans, it takes water to mine the various conflict minerals located in most all electronic devices today.

As students, educators, and influencers, it is imperative to be educated about this topic and also take action to make a difference. According to ThirstForWater.org there are simple things that can be done every day to conserve water:

  • Drink tea rather than coffee to save 32 gallons of water
  • Shorten your shower by 3 minutes to save 16 gallons of water
  • Eat chicken rather than beef to save 581 gallons of water
  • Buy one less t-shirt to save 713 gallons of water⁵

Sources:

¹ http://www.worldwildlife.org/stories/the-impact-of-a-cotton-t-shirt

² http://www.businessinsider.com/map-the-worlds-water-scarcity-problem-is-bad-and-getting-worse-2014-5

³ http://reports.weforum.org/global-risks-2016/executive-summary/

⁴ http://www.businessinsider.com/how-many-days-can-you-survive-without-water-2014-5

⁵ http://www.thirstforwater.org/water-crisis.html

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