Walk For Clean Water

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Another fundraiser, another walk. Why this one?

For me the importance of clean water hit home on a random Tuesday night a few years ago. I stood at the vanity brushing my teeth one night preparing for bedtime. One of my teenaged sons walked past the open bathroom door and stopped dead in his tracks. He looked at me, horrified. “What? What!!!” I yelled at him. Certainly  a poisonous spider must be crawling on my head to be on the receiving end of such an appalled glare. “You’re wasting water,” came the dismayed answer. My son shook his head and walked away, obviously offended at my behavior.

I was out of touch. Water conservation was clearly a thing for my teenager. So much so that leaving the water running while I brushed my teeth was an abhorrent notion to him. Yet I thought nothing of those precious ounces of fresh, clean Lake Michigan drinking water going straight down the drain. Times and priorities had changed and I decided I was going find out what was behind it.

1 in 9 people lack access to safe water. And even more sadly, the burden of sourcing water in the communities most affected by the lack of clean water falls largely women and children.

My research started with the Internet, of course.  Within about two nanoseconds I began to understand my son’s dismay at my cavalier attitude towards water conservation. According to water.org, 1 in 9 people lack access to safe water. And even more sadly, the burden of sourcing water in the communities most affected by the lack of clean water falls largely women and children. Which means that their ability to flourish educationally and financially is greatly diminished. To add insult to injury, 1 in 3 people lack access to a toilet. There are more mobile phone owners than toilet owners. This isn’t just a drinking water issue—it affects sanitation and health, too. I was starting to see that there was something very wrong with this picture.

Enter Aveda Earth Month

Ironically, I have spent the better part of my adult life as member of the Aveda network. Aveda’s Earth Month effort to help people gain access to clean water was nothing new to me.  It just felt like an issue limited to very faraway places – certainly not something that had any kind of relevance in my water-plentiful Great Lakes living life.  But at least I knew where I could find the resources to start my water stewardship in earnest. And hopefully fix the disconnect that so obviously existed between my priorities and my kids’, too.

The lack of access to clean water affects 700 million people every day. To put that in perspective, 700 million is more than twice the population of the United States.

Here is what I learned from Aveda:. The lack of access to clean water affects 700 million people every day. To put that in perspective, 700 million is more than twice the population of the United States. I found that statistic staggering. Here in the US, the water crisis may not seem as urgent as it is in other parts of the world.  But consider the following: 40% of US rivers are too polluted for drinking or even swimming.  The state of California endured a three year drought.  And Florida and Georgia are embroiled in a Supreme Court battle over access to water from shared freshwater basins. Water scarcity is a reality here, too.

We in this region are fortunate in that the Great Lakes account for about 20% of the Earth’s fresh water and it sits in in our back yard. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t very real concerns for us, too. From algae blooms to invasive species to battles amongst municipalities for water access, the crisis is hitting home. For its part, the Aveda network has raised roughly 56 million dollars to support its Earth Month partners since 1999 – but we still have much work to do to preserve our most vital resource.

Neroli Joins Forces with The Water Council

Fast-forward another year. At our Neroli bi-annual meeting, Dean Amhaus, president of the Water Council spoke on its inception.  TWC consists of a group of local visionaries who understand that Milwaukee community and business leaders could pave the way for the nation and the world in safeguarding our most precious resource. Joining forces with area universities, they created a coalition that put Milwaukee at the global epicenter of water education and technology.  I was fascinated. And the Water Council was our new Neroli Earth Month Partner.

We in this region are fortunate in that the Great Lakes account for about 20% of the Earth’s fresh water and we have it in our back yard. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t very real concerns for us, too.

Real World Impact

For me, the really amazing thing about our partnership with the Water Council is that the results of our fundraising efforts are so tangible. Our Walk for Clean Water is not one of those events that you do because it sounds good, not really knowing what good actually comes of it. The Water Council has formed strategic partnerships with several area colleges and universities – most notably the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee School of Freshwater Sciences – to help foster the next generation of water leaders and researchers.

It may be baby steps, but our walk is having an impact – one student, once city, one world, one step at a time.

The proceeds from our Walk for Clean Water are used to fund scholarships awarded to students entering one of the many academic and research programs supported by the Water Council. To learn more about about this scholarship and other programs offered through TWC Global Port click here. Some of these programs have led to important developments, like Junhong Chen’s sensor technology featured in the video above. Used to detect toxic levels of lead in drinking water, Chen’s work effected significant progress in lead abatement. It may be baby steps, but our walk is having an impact – one student, once city, one world, one step at a time.

The Walk for Clean Water will be held rain or shine on Sunday April 22nd at 10 am. It’s Earth Day. Pack up your family, friends and pets and join us. It matters.

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