Submitted by Anna Carolina Ortiz, MPH, International Program Director
Water is an invaluable resource that makes the world go round. Yet, 2.2 billion people still live without access to safe water to this day. The United Nations’ campaign for World Water Day focuses on valuing water or the different meanings water has to different people. When reflecting on the value of water we might think about the fact that it allows us to cook and eat safe food or that it allows us to have a safe sanitation system. Yet, I can’t help but remember the important lessons I learned about the value of water when I interviewed women in Nicaragua in the summer of 2016.
The True Value of Water
As I worked towards my MPH, my thesis work took me to remote communities in Nicaragua’s northern mountain region. I was facilitating focus groups with community members to learn about their perspective and satisfaction with their current water systems and water quality. However, I was not prepared for a lesson on the ultimate value of water.
In my conversations with the heads of household from various communities I learned that water has a much greater value than what we typically see on the surface. Below the surface, they talked about the value in terms of safety, security, time savings and finances.
UNICEF estimates that girls and women spend 200 million hours a day gathering water, which they often do along and at risk of attach or even kidnapping.
A household that is water secure is one where all its members can reach their full potential. Girls and women are no longer burdened with water gathering and can use the time to complete their studies or tend to other family tasks.
Time Savings. Once the water-gathering task is eliminated, families regain that time and can invest it in other activities such as school, chores, or employment outside the home.
When families are forced to gather water outside their home it becomes a precious resource saved for only essential tasks such as drinking, bathing, cleaning, and cooking. Once that household has direct water access in the home, they can divert water to fruit trees, animal husbandry, or agriculture which can become income-generating activities.
These are some of the different meanings water holds for the people Advance serves. By partnering with local organizations in countries like Nicaragua and Peru, Advance leads communities in building new water systems that vastly improve their overall quality of life. In doing so, we are working towards health equity and gender equality around the world. Learn more about our water initiatives here.
What value does water hold for you and your family?