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Outdoors

Walk for Water

Taking steps for a valuable resource

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

I don’t remember too much about the years my family spent in Africa—I was only 4 years old when we left—but a few memories have stuck with me in the decades since we departed.

Some of the clearest recollections I have involve the women of the village where we lived in Gambia. Whether they were carrying large buckets of water on top of their heads from the communal tap to their homes, or heavy loads of peanuts to sell at the market, their strength was undeniable. They were beautiful, and their images still resonate with me to this day—so much so that, when I got my first and only tattoo, it was the silhouette of an African woman carrying a sizeable basket on top of her head.

These days, of course, I know they weren’t just carrying those heavy loads on their heads to prove their fortitude. It was a necessity of their lives; if they wanted clean water for themselves and their families, they had to put in the sweat equity to fetch it. 

I’ll keep that fact in mind this coming Sunday, when the City of Bellingham’s Public Works Department will host its 5th annual Walk for Water starting from the Fairhaven Village Green and continuing along the South Bay Trail to Boulevard Park and back. The event, which happens in recognition of World Water Day 2013, aims to draw attention to local and global cooperative efforts regarding water quantity, quality, protection and restoration around the globe.

The length of the walk is important to take note of, as well. The 2.3-mile excursion symbolizes the distance women and children around the world frequently travel to collect water for household use. To further connect with their efforts, participants are encouraged—but not required—to carry jugs of water as they walk (also optional, I’m guessing, is carrying those jugs on top of your noggin).

As you walk, you’ll also notice water facts and information posted on signs along the route. They may or may not include tidbits such as the fact that 85 percent of the world’s population lives in the driest half of the planet or that 780 million people don’t have access to clean water and nearly 2.5 billion don’t have access to adequate sanitation. You may also find out that six to eight million people die annually from the consequences of disasters and water-related diseases, and that water for irrigation and food production constitutes one of the greatest pressures on freshwater sources.

Once you come to the conclusion of the Walk for Water, stick around at the Fairhaven Village Green to find out even more. There’ll be a plethora of information about water cooperation topics on display, and those with additional questions will be able to have them answered.

With a theme of “International Water Cooperation,” this year’s World Water Day is one to pay attention to. As the Earth’s population grows, the scarcity of one of its most valuable resources is an ever-growing concern. Being aware of it is the first step—doing something about it is the second.

SVCR Don McLean
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