I came across an interesting article today by Arif Belgaumi in one of Pakistan’s papers, The Express Tribune. The author reflects on the devastating impacts of environmental degradation in Pakistan, estimated to cost the country nearly 6% of its GDP each year. Not surprisingly, in this ultra-arid part of the world, one of the most daunting environmental problems is water scarcity. In response to his country’s water troubles, Belgaumi pledges in the New Year to keep the water from running down the drain each morning as he shaves by using a mug to hold the water. (What he plans to do with that water, he does not say; I assume he also intends to fill only the cup and avoid letting the water run while shaving.)
At first glance, his gesture may seem insignificant—laughable, even. However, Belgaumi then goes on to crunch the numbers: He estimates that he lets about 5 gallons of water go to waste each morning. Over the course a year, he’s wasted 1,900 gallons. He then goes on to estimate the demographics of shaving: a populace of 170 million, 50 percent of which are male and 50 percent of those are clean shaven. If all these clean-shaven men were to be equally conscious of their water use, as a group they would conserve 40 billion gallons of water or enough to grow 70,000 acres of wheat, 24,000 acres of rice or serve the needs of the city of Karachi for 50 days!
And, while one might argue that these numbers underestimate current good behavior—shutting off the faucet between rinses—and overestimate water use, regardless, the point is well made. If we all pitch in—just a little bit—we’ll all be better off. So, what’s your New Year’s resolution?