January 2013: Perspectives on Water

Global Warming 

2012 was the hottest year on record in the USA, further establishing the increasing effect of climate change on the planet. With global warming comes an increase of extreme weather events, such as what Australia has been experiencing – flooding fast on the heels of an unprecedented heat wave and bush fires.

The Whole HOG’s much referenced science guy, Robert Krulwich turned us on to what he calls “Miss Piggy’s version of global warming” wherein scientists (at the New Scientist website) published an interactive graph that answers the question, ‘What about me?’ Use the New Scientist App to click on a map of the world, anywhere in the world, and see how the temperature has changed in that location since 1950. A chilling – or should I say fever-inducing – illustration of climate change close to home.

As we enter 2013, we’re thinking about water (in light of global warming) from three different perspectives: personal, national (apologies to our international readers for our American-centric leanings), and global.

We’re taking the Miss Piggy approach direct to your roof with the rooftop rain harvest calculator. This app from Save the Rain lets you find and highlight any roof in the world visible from Google maps (preferably your roof) to figure out how much rainwater it could be collecting annually. A farm in Southwest Colorado, one close to this writer’s heart (it belongs to my mom), where the average annual rainfall is 11.81 inches could be collecting approximately 10,643 gallons a year. That’s 4,447 toilet flushes. How much could you collect?

(*Head’s up, this info is calculated in the metric system. Google provides an easy conversion method, For example, simply type in “300 mm = ?? inches” as your search term. 11.81 inches will come up as the answer.)

In the USA a water main breaks every 2 minutes, resulting in 1.7 billion gallons of water lost every year.  Accessible graphics, colorful stats, and up-to-date data distinguishes the 2012 Value of Water Index from recent reports. The study, put on by Xylem, presents findings from ‘a nationwide poll of American voters detailing what they think should be done about the country’s water crisis and who should pay for it.’

value of water index

©Xylem Value of Water Index

In 2010, 80% of Americans believed our water system needed reform. In 2012, that percentage has grown to 88%. Seventy-nine percent of the American public recognize that demand is growing and water is becoming scarce. But, the factors contributing to a water crisis remain hazy for many. Click on the graph, pictured left, for more.


Sierra Leone

A public latrine in Freetown’s Grey Bush slum where cholera struck. Public bathrooms are generally in poor order and costly to use. ©Mustafah Abdulaziz



Unsafe water sources and poor sanitation make the water crisis in developing countries more visceral. Often there is inadequate infrastructure to serve large urban populations, as in Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone where a population of 2 million people live in a city with an infrastructure built for half that many.  Photographer Mustafah Abdulaziz focuses on the role of water as a carrier of epidemic and disease in a thought-provoking project, funded by the Pulitzer Center, called “Water is Gold”. In it, he documents the aftermath of the worst outbreak of cholera in Sierra Leone’s history.

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