The Elixer of Life: My Water Stories

Water is essential for human beings to survive. Water carries nutrients to all cells in our body and oxygen to our brain. allows the body to absorb and assimilate minerals, vitamins, amino acids, glucose, and other substances, flushes out toxins and waste and helps to regulate body temperature. As a general rule of thumb, a human being can survive without water for roughly 72 hours or three days. And many experts have predicted that the next major world crises will be over water and suggest that growing water scarcity will drive violent conflict as access to water dries up for certain communities.

So with all the importance of water, it is certianly an essential part of our lives. In many parts of the world, water can be hard or soft and most water that is piped is usually soft water, which is treated and only has chorine and sodium. I am super finicky about the taste of water and probably because of the water I am used to, both while growing up in Mumbai and now in Singapore, which is treated chrolinated water, I can’t drink or find it hard to drink any other type of water. So here are some water stories from my life.

A representation of the water cooler we used to carry. Source

When we were younger, we used to travel by train during our summer holidays to visit our grandparents, first only to Bengaluru and then to Chennai first and then to Bengaluru. This is way before bottled water flooded the Indian market and on a train travel, the only water you had was either the water you carried with yourself in large cans or coolers or what you were able to refill in stations enroute. So we would carry as much water as we could from home in large five or 10 litre cans and this was common with pretty much everyone doing the same. This water would finish up roughly about halfway into the journey and we would have to fill it up from one of the stations, usually in Andhra Pradesh. The water would usually be hard and have a brackish taste to it and I would stop drinking water. If I was very thirsty, I would badger my mother to buy me a drink or something else to quench my thirst and if nothing was available, then a sip or two would all that I could stomach. Luckily the period of low to no water would not be too long and we would reach Bengaluru soon and as soon as we reached home, I would gulp water from the largest glass available.

In fact in our home in Bengaluru or Bangalore as it used to be called then, we had two sources of water – one from the well in the house which was slightly hard and the second which was piped in by the city from the Kaveri. I always preferred the Kaveri water and would always tell my grandmother to keep that water for drinking. This water would come in once every other day and when it came in, it would be a process to ensure it was pumped up to the holding tanks so it could be used for cooking eating and drinking while the well water was used for other needs. In fact, on our most recent trip to Bengaluru, my aunt’s house also had some kind of semi-hard water and I just could not bring myself to drink it. This trip was a very short one and we spent a fair amount of time outside visiting family in the city, so I didn’t have to drink it a lot, but the relief I felt when coming back to Bombay and drinking normal water was so immense that everyone who saw me rush to the kitchen to drink water as soon as we reached home had a hearty laugh at my expense.


My maternal grandparents house in Chennai was another matter and there was no source of any soft water. So holidays there used to be a torture for me because there was no alternative source of water I could use. I soon learnt that if the water was ice cold, the taste could be masked and I could drink it, so that’s exactly what I did. Now, I am someone who normally does not drink cold water, but when in Chennai, I would ensure that there was sufficient cold water available so I could use that cold water for drinking and for even brushing my teeth! Our trip to Chennai used to be for a week, after which we would travel to Bangalore for the rest of the holiday, so it was not too bad.

Another story, similar to the above comes from the time when I was around 15. We were on a school trip to the beach town of Bordi which lies almost at the border between the states of Maharashtra and Gujarat. The whole class X cohort was on the trip, and was a combined Girl Guides and Social Services service trip. In Bordi the water was so bad that pretty much none of us drank the water. And this was the late eightees, so we didn’t have much in terms of pocket money and would restrict ourselves to one bottle of a soft drink a day which we would empty into our water bottles. Girls with a larger amount of pocket money would have purchased more than one and all of us were so glad to be back in Bombay where we could drink water to our heart’s content. This three day trip has been in my memories for more than three decades now because I can still remember the feeling of thirst and now being able to drink water because it was so bad. Like what I used to do in Chennai, when the thirst got too much to bear, we would drink a couple of sips of the hard water and then stop.


So these were my water stories. Water is the true elixir of life, with over 71% of our planet and up to 60% of our bodies made up of water. Without water, life will cease to exist and for this reason, we must learn to preserve it for the future generations.

World Water Day

Leonardo Da Vinci once said, water is the driving force of nature which is so true. Without water, humanity would probably not exist and all our searching for new planets to inhabit all hinges on the possibility of finding water in the new planet.

Water means different things to different people. Water important to our home and family life, our livelihood, our cultural practices, wellbeing and local environment. In households, schools and workplaces, water can mean health, hygiene, dignity and productivity. In cultural, religious and spiritual places, water can mean a connection with creation, community and oneself. In natural spaces, water can mean peace, harmony and preservation.

Today, water is under extreme threat from a growing population, increasing demands of agriculture and industry, and the worsening impacts of climate change. The World Water Day celebrates water and raises awareness of the 2.2 billion people living without access to safe water. It is a means of focusing attention on the importance of freshwater and advocating for the sustainable management of freshwater resources. The day is about taking action to tackle the global water crisis and achieving Sustainable Development Goal 6: water and sanitation for all by 2030. The first World Water Day was celebrated in 1993 and is an annual United Nations Observance focusing on the importance of freshwater, coordinated by UN-Water. This Day is an opportunity to learn more about water related issues, be inspired to tell others and take action to make a difference. Water is an essential building block of life. It is more than just essential to quench thirst or protect health; water is vital for creating jobs and supporting economic, social, and human development.

A new World Water Development Report is released each year on or near World Water Day, to provide decision-makers with tools to formulate and implement sustainable water policies. This report is coordinated by UNESCO’s World Water Development Programme (WWAP) on behalf of UN-Water. The annual theme for World Water Day is aligned with the focus of the report.

The theme of World Water Day 2021 is valuing water. Beyond the issues of pricing, this topic includes the environmental, social and cultural value people place on water. Economic development and a growing global population means agriculture and industry are getting thirstier and water-intensive energy generation is rising to meet demand. Climate change is making water more erratic and contributing to pollution. As societies balance the demands on water resources, many people’s interests are not being taken into account. How we value water determines how water is managed and shared. The value of water is about much more than its price – water has enormous and complex value for our households, culture, health, education, economics and the integrity of our natural environment. If we overlook any of these values, we risk mismanaging this finite, irreplaceable resource.

Under the theme of valuing water, there is a digital campaign this year about generating a global, public conversation on social media about how people value water for all its uses. The aim is to create a more comprehensive understanding of how water is valued by different people in different contexts so we can safeguard this precious resource for everyone. Taking place on social media, from now until the end of December, a digital campaign aims to generate conversations – to gather opinions and comments from people around the world about water and what it means to them. The aim is to understand how people value water – whether it is economically, socially, culturally or in other ways – how it plays a role in their lives.

The Sustainable Development Goal number 6 is to ensure water and sanitation for all. Without a comprehensive understanding of water’s true, multidimensional value, we will be unable to safeguard this critical resource for the benefit of everyone.


There are five different perspectives on valuing water:

  1. Valuing water sources – natural water resources and ecosystems: All water is generated by ecosystems. And all the water we abstract for human use eventually returns to the environment, along with any contaminants we have added. The water cycle is our most important ‘ecosystem service’. Higher value must be given to protecting the environment to ensure a good quality water supply and build resilience to shocks such as flood and drought.
  2. Valuing water infrastructure – storage, treatment and supply: Water infrastructure stores and moves water to where it is most needed, and helps clean and return it to nature after human use. Where this infrastructure is inadequate, socio-economic development is undermined and ecosystems endangered. Typical valuations of water infrastructure tend to underestimate or not include costs, particularly social and environmental costs. It is difficult to recover all costs from tariffs (known as full cost recovery). In many countries, only part or all of the operational costs are recovered, and capital investments are covered by public funds.
  3. Valuing water services – drinking water, sanitation and health services: The role of water in households, schools, workplaces and health care facilities is critical. Furthermore, WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) services also adds value in the form of greater health, particularly in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. WASH services are often subsidized, even in highincome countries. However, untargeted subsidies can benefit people with existing water connections, rather than improving the situation for poor and underserved communities.
  4. Valuing water as an input to production and socio-economic activity – food and agriculture,
    energy and industry, business and employment:
    Agriculture places the biggest demand on global freshwater resources and is a major contributor to environmental degradation. Despite being fundamental to food security, water in food production is generally given a low value when assessed purely through the economic lens of value produced in relation to water used. Many of the wider benefits include improving nutrition, generating income, adapting to climate change and reducing migration which are often not reflected in the cost of water. For the energy, industry and business (EIB) sector, water-related threats such as water scarcity, flooding and climate change can push up costs and disrupt supply chains. Corporate mismanagement of water can damage ecosystems and harm reputations and affect sales. Traditionally, the EIB sector has valued water by the volume used, plus the costs of wastewater treatment and disposal. More organisations are adopting integrated water resource management (IWRM) planning approaches as they improve their sustainability.
  5. Valuing socio-cultural aspects of water – recreational, cultural and spiritual attributes: Water can connect us with notions of creation, religion and community. And water in natural spaces can help us feel at peace. Water is an intrinsic part of every culture but the values we attribute to these functions are difficult to quantify or articulate. Economics often considers water to be a resource for practical human usage and pays little or no attention to its socio-cultural, or environmental, value. There is a need to fully understand cultural values around water by involving a more diverse group of stakeholders in water resources management.

We owe this to our children and grandchildren that we bestow upon them a world that is inhabitable, fertile and prosperous, all of which need water. There is a saying attributed to Ismail Serageldin, founding director of Bibliotheca Alexandria who forecasted in 1995 that wars of the 21st century will be fought over water. And when we see the geopolitics of our world, we see this becoming increasingly true. A water crisis is a global crisis. Without sustainable access to water, we will be unable to achieve quality education or the development of more prosperous, fairer societies.Without water, it is possible that humanity will eventually die off and we, as a generation can’t and should not allow this to happen. History has shown that majoe civilizations of the world, including the Indus Valley, the Yangtze, the Nile and the Tigris and Euphrates rivers are testament to this fact. So let’s conserve and save water so we leave a better world to the future generations.

Water: The Driving Force of all Nature


“The wars of the twenty-first century will be fought over water” – Ismail Serageldin

Water, the one thing which human beings can’t survive without for long. The natural resource which, for centuries we have taken for granted and abused mercilessly and one which is precariously close to depletion if we are not careful.

map_showing_global_physical_and_economic_water_scarcity_2006There is a global water crisis going on and challenges to government and non-governmental bodies trying to fix the situation include water scarcity, water pollution, inadequate water supply and the lack of sanitation for billions of people in less developed countries.

Water and related to it, sanitation is an essential human right and so to bring the world’s attention to this dire situation, so that our children and their children have access to a resource which is essential for the survival of the human race, 22 March has been designated as World Water Day.

waterday-logoWorld Water Day is an annual observance day on 22 March to highlight the importance of freshwater. It is also used to advocate for the sustainable management of freshwater resources. World Water Day is celebrated around the world with a variety of events. These can be educational, theatrical, musical or lobbying in nature. The day can also include campaigns to raise money for water projects. The first World Water Day, designated by the United Nations, was commemorated in 1993.

UN-Water selects a theme for each year.The theme for 2018 is “Nature for Water” to encourage people to “look for the answer in nature”. Damaged ecosystems affect the quantity and quality of water available for human consumption. Today, 2.1 billion people live without safe drinking water at home; affecting their health, education and livelihoods. Sustainable Development Goal 6 commits the world to ensure that everyone has access to safe water by 2030, and includes targets for protecting the natural environment and reducing pollution.

The UN World Water Development Report is released each year around World Water Day.

Here in Singapore, most schools celebrate the day by teaching water conservation to the students. For example, some toilets are closed off and students are forced to use a limited number of toilets, or water force is severely curtailed. This is so they get how important water is.

watersavingOn our part, as individuals, we can also take small steps to help conserve water.

  1. Turn off the tap while brushing your teeth. Don’t let all the water go down the drain while you brush! Turn off the tap after you wet your brush, and leave it off until it’s time to rinse.
  2. Turn off the tap while washing your hands. Do you need the water to run while you’re scrubbing your hands? Save a few litres of water and turn the tap off after you wet your hands until you need to rinse.
  3. Fix your leaks. Whether you go DIY or hire a plumber, fixing leaky taps and pipes can mean big water savings.
  4. Take shorter showers. Our shower heads can use as much as 15-20 litres of water per minute. Speed things up in the shower for some serious water savings.
  5. Wash your fruits and vegetables in a pan of water instead of running water from the tap. Collect the water you use while rinsing fruit and vegetables. Use it to water houseplants.

How do you conserve water? Please do comment and share your tips to save water so that we pass on a better earth to our children than what we inherited!