21 April 2010


My job at the airport is taking care of the ground servicing for the fleet of aircraft which my company owns and manages.  One of the largest parts of my job is preparing the aircraft for their departures, so I spend a large part of my work day fueling airplanes.

Jet fuel weighs right around seven pounds per gallon, and it's not uncommon for me to pump up to five hundred gallons of jet fuel into one aircraft.  We have one aircraft that's larger, and that one may take as much as 1,500 gallons.  That's over ten thousand pounds!

The fuel truck I drive has a tank on it that can hold three thousand gallons of jet fuel.  That's twenty thousand pounds, and that's not including the weight of the truck.

20,000 pounds of liquid.

Ten tons.

Water is heavier than jet fuel.  Water weighs close to nine pounds per gallon.  If you were to take my fuel truck, and fill it with 3000 gallons of water instead of jet fuel, the weight would increase from twenty thousand to twenty-five thousand pounds.

Last weekend, I did a water walk to raise funds for our church's water ministry.  We're raising money for water filtration and rainwater collection systems to bring to Rwanda.

The idea of the water walk is that we would try to experience something similar to people in the developing world, who have to walk sometimes miles to the nearest source of water.  Many times, these people have to make that trip twice, or sometimes even three or four times daily.  In some places, people end up walking to and from water collection sites for as much as six hours per day.

I walked for nearly two miles; just over a mile to the water collection site, and then a little less than that back to our starting point.

I carried three gallons of water.

That's about twenty five pounds.

And it took me a little over an hour.

I'm a bit ashamed to admit that my back hurt.

I mean, I carried it well, and I probably could have gone farther than I did, but I had a knot in my back.
And I only carried the water for perhaps twenty minutes or so.  Not three hours.

And I only did it once, not many times that day.

See, even with this gesture of solidarity, even while walking and collecting water, the differences between us and the reality of water scarcity for much of the world comes into stark contrast.

We walked on sidewalks in a residential area.  There were no dirt paths or rough terrain to negotiate.  We actually passed a condominium village with a small decorative pond with fountains and a paddle boat.  Several of the lawns we passed were recently watered.

The collection site we used was a roadside creek, with ample flow to accommodate the hundreds of walkers that were collecting water.  It didn't dry up between collections, so that everyone had to wait, or go dry so that some had to walk back home without.

I could see the bottom of the creek, so this water is pretty clean compared to what many collect and have to drink.  I probably could have drank this water without getting life-threateningly sick.  In the developing world, about 5,000 children die every day, because the water they drink makes them sick.

The three gallons of water I collected is roughly how much water on average is used by one person daily in the developing world.  Imagine only having three gallons of water available for all your cooking, cleaning, and drinking needs.  Here in the U.S., the average daily use is around 400 liters, or 105 gallons.  That equals about 870 pounds.  Try carrying that on your back for a mile.            
Imagine a world where everyone has water like I have jet fuel.

Imagine a world where the distribution systems are in place so that no-one has to waste their life walking back and forth to a well of polluted, unsafe water that might dry up before they collect it.

Imagine it, and then let's work towards it.


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