Is water a foodstuff? Consider this: while we humans can live up to two weeks without food, we cannot
survive much longer than three days without water. Water is the most undervalued foodstuff on the
There are good reasons to reflect on the value of water.
In many western societies today, people drink soft drinks, alcoholic beverages, coffee and tea, or
mineral water out of bottles. It does not look like drinking water, but water remains the basis for all
these drinks. Water is the one irreplaceable liquid we must take into our bodies.
In many such modern societies, people are used to seeing water flow out of a tap any time they turn it
In stark contrast, in many parts of Africa, Asia and Latin America, people - mainly women - have to walk
long distances to access small amounts of the precious liquid. They fetch their water from boreholes,
rivers, wells, lakes, natural springs and other sources.
In many parts of Africa, for example, a glass or calabash of cool, clean water is still the ultimate gesture
of hospitality. Often, it means the water has been fetched from faraway with great effort, filtered and
boiled to kill harmful bacteria. It may then be stored in an earthenware container, such as a pot, where
it remains cool.
In places where water is hard to come by, it is often carefully recycled, for example using dishwater to
clean the floor or to water the vegetables.
Wherever we live on the planet, it pays to conserve and recycle water, because water resources all over
the planet are dwindling due to climate change, drought, use of groundwater for agriculture and
industrial contamination of water.
The way we humans use and abuse water shows that we sometimes forget that there is no substitute
Some common ways to make the best use of our water resources is, for example to catch and use
rainwater. In parts of Africa, harvested rainwater fulfills the daily needs of many families. In countries
such as Germany, many people use rainwater for gardening purposes, instead of using valuable tap
It is also important to dispose of contaminated water according to regulations, so as not to contaminate
water catchment areas or groundwater. For example, water used in industrial processes such as in
dissolving chemicals should be appropriately disposed of.