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Posted at 11:00 AM ET, 03/26/2010

World's Longest Toilet Queue

By Steve Tracton

* Cool weekend coming: Full Forecast | Radar & more: Weather Wall *

Now that I have your attention with the headline...

Monday was the 18th annual World Water Day (WWD), a day designated by the United Nations to focus attention on the importance of sustainable management of freshwater resources. This year's theme was "Clean Water for a Healthy World," with the goal of raising the political profile of both water quality and quantity. Many WWD events were held around the world including -- believe it or not -- an attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the World's Longest Toilet Queue. More on this later.

Most (but not all) of us in this country don't think about personal water usage, except perhaps whether the liquid filling the bathtub looks clear, and whether we prefer tap or bottled water. But not everyone in the world is so fortunate. It's estimated that 1.1 billion people, largely in sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia, have no access to clean water. As a consequence, over 4,000 children under five years old die every day (more stats here).

Keep reading for more on World Water Day...

While contaminants from industrial processes, mining, agriculture and urbanization play a significant role in poor water quality, including in the U.S, the biggest problem worldwide affecting water quality is lack of proper sanitation. Every year, 360 cubic miles of wastewater are produced globally. That's over 300 times the volume of water in Lake Erie. As much as 80% of wastewater, primarily in developing countries, is discharged untreated due to lack of regulations and resources. (If you've ever visited any of the countries labeled as developing, you may know firsthand the truth of this statement.)

Which brings us back to the attempts to create the World's Longest Toilet Queue -- just one of numerous WWD events (also, see the WWD photo gallery). Queues of at least 25 people, queuing from 10 minutes to 24 hours in a public place (standard fare for women's restrooms a theatre or sporting event?), were formed in multiple locations around the world from March 20-22. The toilet at the front of the queue did not have to be real; it could have been "mocked up or represented through a banner or picture."

At last count, the collective number of people joining the queue was 6,543, far surpassing the previous record of 868.

This and other WWD events were targeted at prodding governments worldwide to take action for ensuring access to clean water and safe sanitation at the first High-Level Meeting on Sanitation and Water, scheduled for April 22 (Earth Day) in Washington, D.C.

Even in the U.S., the daily demand for clean freshwater has steadily increased over the years from washers and dishwashers, toilets, showers/baths, agriculture, watering lawns, washing cars, etc. But the domestic supply is not infinite and may soon become a scarce commodity, especially in the Southwest from prolonged periods of drought, and elsewhere from a wide variety of pollutants.

There are plenty of things you can do to help conserve water. For a broader and in-depth look at freshwater, check out the latest issue of National Geographic Magazine.

By Steve Tracton  | March 26, 2010; 11:00 AM ET
Categories:  International Weather, Tracton  
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Next: World Meteorological Day 60th Anniversary


Great reminder, Steve. Thanks for this article.

Posted by: Ann-CapitalWeatherGang | March 26, 2010 11:14 AM | Report abuse

A minor tip that I would add: having kayaked by various sewage treatment plants, a noticeable problem is scented laundry detergent. There is no way to get rid of that chemical (and probably the dye chemicals as well). So get the unscented kind and use it sparingly so there is less froth in the wastewater.

Posted by: eric654 | March 26, 2010 11:35 AM | Report abuse

"Even in the U.S., the daily demand for clean freshwater has steadily increased over the years from washers and dishwashers, toilets, showers/baths, agriculture, watering lawns, washing cars, etc."

Does this include industry? Also, is this per capita? It would be good to note this. As the number of Americans grows, obviously we will use more water in total. Demand from toilets, washers, dishwashers and even showers/faucets should not be increasing (per capita) but decreasing since all of those have either mandates that lowered the amount of water used or at minimum have substantially increased the number of efficient options available.

I looked at the tips and many we do. The hardest thing for me to do was stop running the water while brushing my teeth. That was (is) a habit that is really hard to break. We have gotten a low flush toilet to replace a very old one and it flushes a lot better. We swapped out our dish and clothes washers for high eff ones and for the most part work great (but it was not cheap). For the most part, we use mother nature to wash our cars...

The one area missed is a running toilet...probably much worse than a dripping faucet.

Posted by: amaranthpa | March 26, 2010 1:12 PM | Report abuse

I seldom water grass, except when trying to grow from seed. Grass turns brown, but seems to usually come back pretty well on its own after droughts.

Somewhat related, earth hour is tomorrow night.

Posted by: spgass1 | March 26, 2010 3:11 PM | Report abuse

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