Blog post written by Hannah Milner, End Water Poverty volunteer and supporter: original posted on her website.
I have been asked several times by those who know me personally, "Why are you always sharing posts about water conservation and drinking water?", and I have decided that as it is Water Action Month, now would be the best time to share.
Before I volunteered in India for three months, I didn't really pay attention to global issues in relation to safe water, or knew much about water conservation. Since I was a child, I have done one of the main ways to conserve water in the household - turning faucets off when not using them. Despite this, I cannot recall making any more effort than that to conserve water. I knew that when I applied to volunteer in India for three months with International Citizen Service in conjunction with Pravah, my water consumption would be drastically lowered due to living in a country that has a scarcity of safe water. This didn't scare me though, as I was ready for the challenge and quite excited to live in a different culture and lifestyle.
I always knew that a lack of safe water was an issue as I'd seen a plethora of different adverts on TV and social media over the years, but I never quite believed, or fully registered that it was an actual problem, affecting millions of real people across the globe. I think from my sheltered lifestyle in the UK, I made myself ignorant to the water crisis as I had never been a victim of water scarcity and had, and still have, "unlimited" access to clean and safe water at the turn of a tap.
So when did I become so passionate about the Sustainable Development Goal number 6 - Clean Water and Sanitation? - around about the time I saw my host mother, Puspa Ji, carry around 10 litres of clean drinking water on her shoulder after extracting this water from a well.
Hannah in Rajasthan during her time as a volunteer
In India, there are different levels of water poverty, and this usually works hand in hand with all other types of poverty. Richer families in the village I volunteered in in Rajasthan, Kotri, could afford to have tanks of clean drinking water delivered to there homes, and this water would be used in their everyday lives. However, for families with less money who could not afford the same luxury, most had to resort to drinking salt water or dirty water - both of which are bad for your health.
Those who lived in poverty tended not to have a toilet, good access to safe water, and as a repercussion faced more health risks. Luckily, a lot of families in the village of Kotri were getting toilets fit into their homes. This was an amazing step as many had to carry a bottle of water to a field to do their business, without privacy or facilities to wash their hands after. This is one of the reasons I became passionate about SDG6, because it made me realise that water conservation wasn't the only solution to the problem, as the problem was a lot bigger than just having water. Sanitation is intricately linked to safe water, and both are needed for people to lead a healthier lifestyle.
I started to feel more empathetic and opened myself up more to how big the water crisis actually was after sitting and talking with a family in Kotri, and being offered a cup of chai made with salt water. It made me incredibly sad to think that whilst I had lived my whole life drinking clean water from the tap in my kitchen, there was millions of families that really did have to resort to drinking water that was not good for their health, just to survive.
Another thing that I became increasingly aware about during my time in India, was how to use water effectively. I can say truthfully that one of my fears about coming back home to the UK was coming back to a life where it was normal to use excessive amounts of water in our daily lives. This, however was a lesson that I learned very close to the end of my three months in India. I realised just how privileged I was, and if I wanted to see change, I'd have to be involved in it.
Once I got back to the UK, I was unsure of how to start raising awareness of the problems that I had seen in India, so I started by changing my lifestyle. I have religiously lived by having a strict 5 minute shower or showering from a bucket, I have started to hand wash my clothes more and never wash clothes until their is a full load, and I have started to use water more effectively. I decided to follow a lot of Water-related groups on my social media, and to research more about the water crisis.
Living on 5 litres a day challenge
As a result of this, I decided to do a Water Challenge where I lived on 5 litres of water per day to highlight the issues of living on a limited amount of water. (You can find my experiences on my social media or read my earlier blog posts), and a video with some other ICS volunteers on taking shorter showers to conserve water - this can be found on my personal Facebook, for those that know me. I have decided to support Care International by joining in their Walk In Her Shoes campaign which is to raise money to build water pumps and wells in places across the globe to make water and education more accessible for those it effects. I have decided to support End Water Poverty by supporting their WASH campaign, which stands for Water, Sanitation and Hygiene. I have decided to share multiple posts to educate about the water crisis, among other exciting things.
So, my reasons for sharing posts about water conservation and becoming more actively involved is this: I am passionate about it. I want to share posts about the main issue that I want to tackle. I want to raise awareness of the water crisis in hope that maybe I will turn a few heads of those I interact with on social media, and so that they will start to think about the problem at hand and help to fight it. I want people to hear my voice when I speak out. I want to use this time to call on my friends to think about Clean Water and Sanitation. I want to encourage others to be passionate about the Sustainable Development Goals, as they benefit everyone.
Goal number 6 in the Sustainable Development Goals, in my opinion, is one of the most important goals out of the 17 because Clean Water and Sanitation (Goal 6) is an integral part of life, with water being one of the most basic human rights. Without safe water, many of the goals including environment, health, equality, will not be as effectively reached.
Without my ICS experience in India, I do not think that I would be as passionate about something so important, and I do not think that I would be confident enough to write about my personal experiences which led me posting about Water Conservation. I am going to continue volunteering with charities to raise awareness and money for water-related projects, and posting a lot of water-related articles on my social media. Truthfully, being exposed to the water crisis in India has changed my life path, and I can only thank ICS and Pravah for giving me the opportunity to find something that I think is worth fighting for. So far I have done only grass root level activism via challenges, writing blog posts and raising awareness through social media - but every little step counts.
As I was once told, we are all just a drop in the ocean, but we have the potential to create a wave.