I don’t mean to spoil your Songkran, but in years to come what you do this week may be illegal. Even worse, we may not even need a law to prevent people from throwing water at one another. The treasured practice will likely be seen as an act of total insanity, or simply undoable.
For now, though, it’s hard not to take fresh water for granted.
I’m no different or less complacent, but I offer up the following fun and not-so-fun facts about H20 to mark perhaps the most famous water-throwing festival on the planet:
1. One prevailing theory is that water first landed from the heavens. This theory says the earth was bone dry until the wet stuff arrived in asteroids a few billion years ago. This period is called the Late Heavy Bombardment, though some see it as an act of God, since without water, life as we know it would not have been possible.
2. We live in a Water World, because somewhere between 70 and 75 per cent of the earth’s surface is covered with lake, river and ocean. So, why would lawmakers of the future prohibit throwing fresh water during Songkran, you may ask.
3. It’s because some 97 per cent of the planet’s water is salty. Just over 2 per cent is locked in polar ice caps. This leaves less than one per cent as fresh water. In other words, although we live in a Water World, less than one per cent of it is drinkable.
4. Which is likely to present serious problems for two-thirds of the world’s population in only 15 years. According to the United Nations, billions are likely to face major water scarcity by 2025.
5. Already, about one in nine people lack access to a safe and clean source. Collectively, each day women and children in South Africa walk a distance equivalent to 16 trips to the moon and back to fetch water for their families. Most of them spend a quarter of their day on this one task.
6. I was not aware of this before, but to grow a day’s food for a family of four takes an average 25,750 litres. That’s 6,800 gallons in imperial measurements. A day’s food, may I repeat.
7. In Nairobi, the urban poor pay several times more for water than the wealthy do in New York. While we have the luxury to fight over ideologies, water is all people think about in some countries, where less than half of the population have access to a clean supply.
8. That is more ridiculous when you consider that just a third of what the world spends each year on bottled water could pay for projects providing a safe supply to everyone in need.
9. Now consider this: refilling a bottle 1,740 times with tap water costs the same as one bottle of water bought at a convenience store. If this can’t make you stop buying the bottled stuff, nothing can.
10. On average, we use about 380 litres per day, splashing around 60 litres with our morning shower alone. Our great grandparents used 8-9 times less. For anyone feeling wasteful at this point, here’s an easy tip: Brushing your teeth while in the shower can save as much as eight litres per minute.
11. Your average roof collects tens of thousands of litres of rain in a year. Talk about wasting free water.
12. Your body is between 60 and 70 per cent water. The proportion changes at different stages of your life. A human foetus is more than 90 per cent water. An adult weighing 70 kilograms sloshes with about 42 litres of the stuff, most of which is in the cells.
13. Health experts recommend that you drink about 6-8 glasses of water each day, but about a third of household drinkable water is used to flush the toilets.
14. It’s a mistake to believe your children have their whole lives ahead of them for plain water so they should enjoy super-sweet soft drinks while they can. Now and then is okay, but don’t let TV commercials lull you into thinking your kids’ soft-drink habit is harmless. As far as your children are concerned, stick with plain water, milk and genuine fruit juices. Countless studies show properly hydrated kids do better at school and on the sports field.
15. Keep in mind that children’s metabolism makes them less aware than adults of dehydration. Make it your habit to give the kids plenty of drinking water and teach them to find clean sources for themselves when outside the home. Remember, water did not become one of the most abundant substances in the universe for no reason.