Raising Awareness of Water Use


"About 95 percent of the water we use everyday is not the water we use at home," said Mina Guli, founder and chief executive of Thirst, a nongovernmental organization run by the Young Global Leaders of the World Economic Forum to raise awareness among young people of water conservation.

Guli said people are using water in all sorts of places they don't think about - "from our clothing, to our food and to our electronics", she said.

"Fresh water is essential to life and yet we are using it faster than it can be replenished."

Guli has been engaged with climate change for the past 15 years.

When she asked people how much water it takes to make a pair of jeans or a cell phone, they suggested small sums. The reality is that the amount of water required for a single shopping trip for a pair of jeans, a T-shirt and a burger is enough for 8,000 days of drinking water.

Thirst also hopes to teach big companies to use water more effectively. "By talking to the youth about water, we will create demand for water-friendly products. Young people will say to big companies, please give us products that use water more efficiently," she said.

In consequence, Thirst is rolling out a global water awareness campaign to educate people on how to use water sustainably and consume water-sustainable products.

Water scarcity is widely considered to be the world's most pressing environmental issue and is intrinsically tied to China's economic growth and population health. Especially in China, where available water per person is a quarter of the global average, scarcity has forced people to leave their homes and has caused immeasurable drought and environmental damage. According to estimates provided by Thirst, water scarcity costs China 37 billion yuan ($5.87 billion) a year.

Working to find a solution to this worsening situation, Thirst, based in Beijing, is raising awareness about the issue of "invisible water" - "the water that we consume every day, hidden in our clothes, gadgets, food and cars", Guli said.

The organization, founded about one year ago, believe it is the young who will be most affected by the worsening environment.

According to Penn Schoen Berland's research on the knowledge and attitudes of youths from the United Kingdom, United States and China about environmental threats and their own lifestyles, Chinese youth were the most aware that water was the biggest environmental threat.

"After learning about the water crisis, youths in China were the most likely to reduce their water consumption, talk to their friends about the issue and post messages online," Guli said.

Fiona Lawrie, chief operating officer at Thirst, said: "By advocating and participating in this global water awareness campaign, Chinese youths can show the rest of the world that they are leading the way in protecting our most valuable resource - water. It is a privilege to be here at the beginning of a movement looking to create real global change."


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