Water, Water Everywhere

Today’s blog post was written by Lily Cason, the WCO Graduate Assistant, who can’t help but think about water all the time.

Lately I’ve been pouring over pictures of aardvarks, lilac-breasted rollers, Baobob trees, and Boomslangs in hopes of learning how to identify them.

Aardvark (in real life they look a little different than Arthur)

Aardvark (in real life they look a little different from Arthur)


I’m trying to get to know these creatures because I’m preparing to head out on a study abroad program to Botswana and South Africa next month to study wildlife.

As I get ready for the trip, I can’t help but also think about water and wonder what differences there may be between here and there.  So I did some research.

According to UNICEF, Botswana and South Africa are among a select few countries in Africa on track to meet the Millennium Development Goals for improving access to safe water and sanitation.


Some statistics from the UNICEF/WHO 2014 report on “Progress on Drinking Water and Sanitation:”

Percentage of the population with access to improved drinking water sources Percentage of the population with access to improved sanitation
Botswana 97% 64% (78% in urban areas, 42% in rural areas)
South Africa 95% 74% (82% in urban areas, 62% in rural areas)
United States 99% 100%


While worldwide access to clean drinking water has greatly improved in the last 20 years, access to improved sanitation remains a major concern.  Open defecation (the practice of defecating outside in an undesignated area) perpetuates a cycle of poverty and disease. There are also concerns about the increased vulnerability to violence faced by women and girls without access to private toilets.

Baobob trees (you can see why they are called "the Upside Down Trees")

Baobob trees (you can see why they are called “the Upside Down Trees”)

As a woman living in the United States, the benefit of access to improved sanitation is something I rarely think about during my daily life. It seems strange to appreciate flushing away my waste but in reality it is a privilege that affords me a safer and healthier life.

However, not everything in Botswana and South Africa is so distant from life in the United States.

I found several articles from 2014 warning of dangerously low water levels in Gaborone, the capital of Botswana.  Experts predicted that the water behind the Gaborone dam would last about four more months.

Sound familiar? California’s governor recently ordered mandatory water restrictions for the first time in California history due to near-crisis drought levels. People in the United States are debating how to

The Water Crisis in California

The Water Crisis in California

handle the water crisis in a region of the country that is home to millions of people and is responsible for growing a large percentage of our food.

Reading about water issues in other countries gave me some perspective on how universal this problem is. It will be interesting to see how officials and residents of California deal with the water crisis. In the Gaborone area, the water supply to its 500,000 residents is cut off for as many as nine hours for three days a week as part of the rationing efforts.  Could something like this be in California’s future?



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