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I think a lot about water. Whether it’s flowing down a river, buried deep in underground aquifers, or perched in glaciers clinging to the high peaks, it’s a magical thing, the essence of life on Earth. Without it, we can’t survive, nor can the myriad creatures sharing the planet with us.
And yet water is one of the most threatened resources today. From increasing demand to waste and mismanagement, climate change to development and pollution, the world’s fresh water supplies are in trouble. In the developing world, some 800 million people live daily without access to safe water. Roughly 2.5 billion don’t have adequate sanitation. (What this means in layman’s terms is that they live in constant fear that what just came out of their bodies might reenter with their next drink of water.) Water is a huge issue in the developed world, too. The mighty Colorado River, lifeblood to 36 million people across the desert southwest, for example, was recently named America’s most endangered river.
Fortunately, there are lots of great people and great organizations working hard on the problem. From the World Wildlife Fund to American Rivers to my friends and Challenge21 partners at Water For People, there is a lot of focus and attention on the global water crises and solutions.
Since 2011, I’ve focused my climbing on drawing attention to the water issues, and raising money for Water For People and their solutions. While by no means a water expert, my experiences with water have taught me one thing: there is no single, simple solution. Global water issues – just like a river – touch many areas, and flow through diverse, divisive issues like human development, wildlife and ecosystem conservation, climate change, economic development, human rights, cultural norms and traditions, etc. Bringing safe water to Village X is not as simple as sinking a well, checking the flow, and calling it a day, for the safe water flowing from the tap today could well be disrupted tomorrow by many factors upstream.
In a couple weeks, I’ll be heading off to India with my friends and colleagues, Pete McBride and David Morton. Our focus on the trip is to tell the story of the world’s most revered and reviled river, the Ganges. We’ll start in the high Garhwal Himalaya attempting the unclimbed Chaukhamba IV at the true source of the Ganges, and then follow the river 1,500 miles to its terminus at the Bay of Bengal.
The Ganges River is believed by some 1 billion Hindus to be an incarnation of the divine. Millions depend on it for survival, and its waters are the very lifeblood of the Subcontinent. But it is under great threat. Climate change is wreaking havoc on the glaciers which feed it in the north. Nuclear power and industrial wastes pollute it all along its course. An estimated 1.5 billion liters of untreated human waste are dumped into it every day. By the time it reaches the Bay of Bengal, the holy waters of the Ganges are a sickly shadow of the alpine ice from which they came.
This autumn, thanks to great support from sponsors like Microsoft, Eddie Bauer, Vapur, and more, we’ll tell the Ganges’ story through the eyes of those who love it and hate it, protect it and pollute it, revere it and revile it.
It’s going to be an arduous and exciting journey – and one which will put our Vapur MicroFilters to the test! Please tune in and follow along…the adventure begins on September 5th.