World Water Day!! With water balloons!! And dogs!! And exclamation marks!!

A water piñata is a great way to cool off on a summer day. Instructions on the linked site helpfully note that you should put the thin end of the funnel into the balloon to fill it, and that you should tie the balloon off when filled. In Africa, mud or dirt can be substituted for water.

The editorial staff of Waterblogged.info (me) has decided to end a very long posting hiatus (i.e.; a lengthy period of slothful and inexcusable neglect)—by acknowledging—nay, celebrating!—World Water Day!  I’ll let serial social entrepreneur (??) Jonathan Greenblatt at Huffington Post gush about all of the reasons why you should party like it’s 2010 and Jonathan Daniel Harris (no relation to the previously mentioned Jonathan)—also at Huffington—enumerate all of the ways YOU can get involved.

But, asks YOU, what’s a water celebration without water balloons? You’ll get no argument from Simon, a Jack Russell terrier performance artist who marked the occasion by ceremoniously wasting a gallon or so of water and then—with an ironic twist worthy of Chekov—acting as though he should be rewarded for it.

Water Consciousness!

In previous posts, Waterblogged.info’s summer reading list! Part 1, and Waterblogged.info’s summer reading list! Part 2, we recommended what we believe to be 10 important books about the global water crisis. All great books, but if you want the essential primer about the problems and how you can contribute to solutions*, snag a copy of Alternet’s Water Consciousness. Timely and informative, but also beautiful and accessible, it’s truly a good choice for agenda-driven holiday gift giving. Go here and press that green button that says Buy Now and follow the instructions to the letter.

*For example, a list of 14 Actions You Can Take to Protect Our Water. Don’t search–it’s not there.

Dear, while you’re up, could you hike 10 miles to the nearest water hole and bring back five gallons of filthy water?

We were momentarily surprised to get a pingback from Gender & Water Community (GWC), a blog focused on, in the editors’ words, “sharing gender perspectives in everyday water use.” They’d linked to our recent post about rainmaking. “What the heck does cloud-seeding have to do with gender?” we pondered during our morning time-wasting chatter fest. As it turns out, GWC posts a great deal of water-related news not directly concerned with gender issues.

Reading GWC reminds us anew that women bear a nightmarishly disproportionate burden of the lack of sufficient clean water in developing countries. Sure the men get their fair share of the disease, the parasites, the thirst, the hunger, and the despair, but they — generally speaking—miss out on the schlepping.

For millions of rural women across the globe, supplying their families with a meager quantity of water is an exhausting life- and soul-destroying regime of walking, waiting, and lugging that can take up as much as six hours a day. As WaterAid—an international agency which claims to be “the world’s leading champion of safe water, effective sanitation, and hygiene promotion”—notes in this heartbreaking article:

“In most developing countries the task of collecting water falls to women. In rural Africa women often walk ten miles or more every day to fetch water. In the dry season it is not uncommon for women to walk twice this distance.

The tragedy is that, having spent so much time and effort in reaching a source of water, the water itself is often dirty, polluted and a health hazard.”

After reading the article, Waterblogged.info invites you to become further outraged by downloading and perusing Women_and_WaterAid_2006, the organization’s informative and well-organized fact sheet.

We also humbly invite you to read our entry, “It’s a hard-knock life.” While embarrassingly overwrought and loopy, it offers links to more resources about the dire world water crisis.

It’s a hard knock life

The wrenching wails emanating from the copy editor’s direction cut through the normal bustling din of the Waterblogged.info press room like a sharp cutting implement of some sort. “WTF?” the entire editorial team thought as we surrounded his cubicle. Did his chihuahua, Marmaduke, die? Did he lose at that goddamned video game he plays when he’s supposed to be hunting down typos?

Sniveling and shaking, he pointed to a news story on his screen. “Look at this!” he screeched. “First they tell us to drink eight glasses a day! Then they tell us not to! First it’s great for our health to drink a lot of water, and then suddenly it isn’t! Then we’re supposed to drink tap water, and then they tell us its full of pharmaceuticals! Now they’re saying that tap water is as good or better than bottled water. Does that mean all that money I’ve spent on Evian was wasted? “I feel so jerked around and confused! What the hell am I supposed to do-whoo-whoo-whoooo-whoooo-whoooo?

The last word–that sounded not unlike an owl on meth–was broken up (as we helpfully indicated with hyphens), by sloppy sobs and snotty snorts accompanied by the arrhythmic heaving of his bony little shoulders.

Touched by the stripling’s total self-absorption—and making a mental note to revive our dormant employee drug testing program—we handed him a tissue and cooed comforting there-theres and now-nows. He opened his eyes, which he’d squeezed shut to block out the harsh reality of his life, and was momentarily startled at the sight of so many tissue-offering hands. He selected one, blew his nose, but continued to whimper and shake uncontrollably.

Luckily, the editor-in-chief had just been to a workshop on how to take a tough-love approach to in-house mental breakdowns. She put her cigar down and with one hand grabbed him by his black emo T-shirt with the other gave him two smart snap-out-of-it slaps. She had the tough part nailed.

She pulled his wide-eyed face close to her three-day stubble. “Listen copy editor [not his real name], there are a lot of people on this planet who can’t make the choice of whether or not to inhale gallons of water all day like a race horse training for the Preakness,” she said ever so softly. “Their choice is what dusty path to take to find a filthy little puddle of bacteria-infested brackish water to give to their emaciated child. Their dilemma is ‘Should I let my baby die of thirst now or of diarrhea later?’ They don’t have to worry about pharmaceuticals in their water because they don’t have medicine and they don’t have any water. They don’t have to agonize about which bottled water is the perfect accessory for their lifestyle, because they don’t have lifestyles and did I mention that they don’t have water?”

“So, your choice is either move to one of those countries where life won’t be so gee-williebillers complicated or stop your whimpering and get your skinny little ass back to work,” she quipped. Squeezing his shoulder firmly but not enough to bruise, she spun his chair around toward his monitor. He must have felt the love, because he immediately grabbed his AP manual and started industriously flipping through it. As the boss turned she noticed our admiring glances and humbly said, “What are you looking at? Get the hell back to work!”

Lesotho: a case study in sticking it to the poor

[3/6/08: The editorial staff of Waterblogged.info is perplexed by the unusual amount of interest in this post recently, which is among one of our more obscure. Leave us a comment if you can enlighten us as to why. Heck, leave a comment if you can’t enlighten us. Ed.]

In the locker room at our local Y—after one of Waterblogged.info’s frequent team-building group workouts—we overheard a naked gentleman who appeared to be around 65 explaining to a half-clothed gentleman why he joined the peace corps satellite-image-of-lesotho.jpgand would soon find himself in Lesotho teaching English. “I’m retired and my wife died. What am I gonna do, stay home and feel sorry for myself?”

No, we thought, he should go to Lesotho and feel sorry for its inhabitants. Lesotho is a tiny nation snugly surrounded by South Africa. Truth be told, until we did some research, we thought Lesotho was among the benighted bantustans. It’s not, but it might as well be. Like the now dismantled homelands, the mountain kingdom—as the ruggedly mountainous land is called—is impoverished and completely economically dependent on the beast in whose belly it sits.

This executive summary from Humanitarian Appeal—for all of you executives reading this—and this article will give you a sense of the extraordinary misery visited on the Basotho (inhabitants of Lesotho) by the worst Southwest-African drought in thirty years. The damage includes the fact that the mainly rural population has extremely limited and shrinking access to clean water and is facing a famine. Even the urban poor lack sufficient water. According to a 2004 report from Public Citizen:

In the capital of Maseru, only 50% of the population has access to adequate drinking water. People purchase water from vendors at inflated prices or wait in long queues at public water works.

But here’s the naughty bit: Lesotho is water-rich and its economy is pretty much based on exporting water. WTF?, the astute reader is no doubt asking at this moment, much as we did when we first read that outrageous fact. The problem is that most of the water is in the highlands, inaccessible to most of the inhabitants, but not to South Africa. The Wikipedia entry on Lesotho explains:

Water is Lesotho’s only significant natural resource. It is exploited through the 21-year, multi-billion-dollar Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP), which began in 1986. The LHWP is designed to capture, store, and transfer water from the Orange River system to South Africa’s Free State and greater Johannesburg area, which features a large concentration of South African industry, population, and agriculture.

katse-dam-lesotho.jpgThe article goes on to state that the LHWP (its Katse Dam pictured at right) has made Lesotho almost energy-independent, but fails to note that most of the inhabitants are dirt-poor and have no access to that power. The main point of all this is that all of the water from the LHWP is going to South Africa, and not a drop to drought-stricken Lesotho.

The rural Basotho are not just being screwed out of water by South Africa and their little puppets in Lesotho, but like millions of the wretched around the globe, they have lost their land, homes, and livelihood to the massive dam project. From Worldwatch Institute:

In the past six decades, large dams have displaced some 40–80 million people worldwide, according to the World Commission on Dams. But the total number affected by such projects is far larger: IRN reports that millions more have lost land and homes to the canals, irrigation schemes, roads, power lines, and industrial developments that accompany dams, while others have lost access to clean water, food sources, and other natural resources in the dammed areas and downstream. In the case of LHWP, the number of affected people is more than eight times the number of the most visible victims of the project.

According to a wet and naked but reliable informant, our erstwhile locker room buddy has indeed left for Lesotho. We hope that he takes some time off from teaching and feeling sorry for the Basotho, and like the many tourists that visit the country, goes hiking (like in the pretty picture above) or even horseback riding! Given his age, he probably should avoid the snowboarding. Yep, there’s even snow up in them there African highlands.