Global Awareness conference speaks on worldwide water issues

Keynote speaker raises awareness on water shortages

By Juan Calvillo

Water scarcity seems like only a third-world issue, but it affects  more than two million United States citizens. 

The fourth annual East Los Angeles Global Awareness Conference covered multiple topics when it comes to water scarcity and how it affects most of the world. In an article Monday morning, Associated Press writer Martha Mendoza said “Canadians have been unwittingly exposed to high levels of lead in their drinking water.” The levels are higher than those found in the water in Flint, Michigan, both of these examples show that the entire world can be affected.

Allen Coson, associate professor in Economics, and Norma Vega, professor in Modern Languages, were the co-chairs for the conference. The goal of the event was three-fold according to Coson. The conference was aimed to accomplish a dialogue among those in attendance that would move from the local to the international level.

The event was put on to create awareness of what humans do pertaining to the world around them. The final goal was to find solutions that were made to be long term, not short term, providing a positive future for those that would come along after the solutions were created.

The keynote speaker for the convention opening was George McGraw, the chief executive officer of DigDeep, a company informing on water poverty and helping create solutions to these situations. McGraw said that DigDeep was focused on creating a connection with communities that are affected by water issues and empower them to take charge of fixing the situations facing these communities. He said that the programs, “have to be theirs [community] more than yours.”

McGraw said that when he first started DigDeep he was the perfect example of someone who thought that water problems were only in other parts of the world. 

Then a woman named Karen Reynolds opened his eyes to the worsening situation concerning water in the United States. McGraw said that he questioned what he was learning, “surely this isn’t a problem in my backyard.”

After learning the truth, he began to work with the citizens of a first-world country who didn’t have access to clean water. In some cases they didn’t have running water at all. McGraw said that he focused on the Navajo Nation in the United States. 

The Navajo Nation covers an enormous piece of land that is spread over Arizona, Utah and New Mexico. In these areas of the United States 40% of the people on these reservations don’t have running water. McGraw said that many people within these communities had to walk long distances to get drinkable water.

McGraw gave an example of how water plays a crucial role in daily life, not just for the Navajo people, but people in general. Brenda Johnson lived in an area where there was no water security. Her husband was ill and living in the city away from the reservation. When she finally received clean water, she rushed into her house and started cooking tamales.

McGraw said that she was cooking tamales to sell in order to pay for her husband to get back home. Johnson’s husbands infection had started because the family didn’t have clean water to dress his wounds.

McGraw said that water is “the fuel that makes [the] world go around.” He said that the problem of water security and scarcity is one that can be solved. The situation in the Navajo Nation, and many areas in the rural United States, was a problem that the government should  look into, McGraw said. The shortage of clean water is a huge red flag for climate change. About 87%  of the Navajo Nations water spots were above ground and had dried up due to the changes in the climate. 

McGraw said that often when politicians hear about these situations they are in disbelief because it doesn’t make sense at times. He said people around the world who have access to clean water should try to understand the situation by doing a simple challenge.

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