YOUNG

Let's be water-wise

While there is no escape from washing hands regularly, we can definitely be more mindful of the way we use water and avoid its wastage

 
By Srishti Jha
Last Updated: Monday 04 May 2020

A person washing hands 8-10 times a day would consume around 15-20 litres of water per day. (Illustration: Vijayendra Pratap Singh)

With the coronavirus (COVID-19) disease spreading to more than 200 countries and territories, governments have ramped up their efforts to prevent the easy transmission of the deadly virus. And like everyone else, children also have a key role in this epic battle between humans and the virus. But what can one do while being confined at home?

Well, if we look at it from a different perspective, we will see that this virus and our collective fight against it have revealed the importance of little steps in our lives. How?

According to the World Health Organization (who) guidelines on hygiene practices, the simple act of hand washing using a soap and water, is one of the most effective tools to protect us from getting infected by the coronavirus. Practices such as washing hands before and after eating or using the toilet, maintaining one-arm distance when around others and covering our mouth with a tissue or handkerchief while sneezing or coughing have always been a part of our school and domestic lives for as long as we can remember. Perhaps, we failed to notice the importance of these little measures but now, they have attained fresh significance. Today, these are our first line of defense against the coronavirus, or any other virus for that matter.

The good news is that we have become more careful and conscious about maintaining hygiene levels not only in our households but also in public spaces. For example, we can no longer afford to be callous about spitting in public places or discarding used tissues on the road. Aware of the disastrous consequence arising from not washing hands, we have disciplined ourselves to make regular handwashing a part of our daily lives despite the challenges.

However, there is also a downside to this new culture of regular handwashing and it is that there is an increased usage of taps around the world. Since many of us keep the tap running while working a lather, a lot of water gets wasted.

Cases of increased water demand have emerged across the globe. In Hyderabad, water consumption has increased manifold since stay-at-home orders were issued by the Union government in March, according to the Hyderabad Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board. Likewise, water demand in Jordan jumped by 40 per cent since similar restrictions were imposed as part of a curfew aimed at checking the spread of the infection, according to the government of Jordan.

Note that the data is based on diary entries stating the daily average consumption of water by students of East Point School, New Delhi.

What this means is that more water is being pumped from the ground. In a world where water scarcity continues to be a problem, this is not good news. Recent episodes of acute water shortage in major cities like Cape Town in South Africa, São Paulo in Brazil and Chennai in India have sparked fears that no-water days would soon become the new normal.

However, washing hands for at least 20 seconds and at regular intervals is key to fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, a person washing hands 8-10 times a day would consume around 15-20 litres of water per day. In a household where there are five family members, this would mean that around 100 litres of water gets used for handwashing daily! But do we have a choice? Of course, we do. While there is no escape from washing hands regularly, we can definitely be mindful of the way we use water and avoid any wastage.

And, there is a simple way to be water-wise, even while fighting the battle against corona. For example, by keeping the tap closed while washing hands, we can save water that would otherwise be wasted.

Listed below are a few more easy steps that will help us reduce our consumption levels and ensure we have enough water for the future.

  • Try turning the tap at a level such that the flow of water is slow. This will decrease water wastage during handwash
  • Collect water in a mug and wash your hands
  • While at home, note down your daily water consumption in a water footprint diary. You can also share it with us!
  • Next time it rains, you can collect rainwater in container and use it for cleaning purposes


If your school doesn’t have a rainwater harvesting (rwh) system already, you can always request your school to invest in one. To know more about prudent water management and conservation practices, your school could also participate in the GSP Audit 2020.

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