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Americans Walk for Water on World Water Day


In observance of World Water Day this year, thousands of Americans are walking to draw attention to the lack of clean drinking water in many parts of the world

Communities across the globe have observed World Water Day each March 22nd, since the United Nations designated it in 1993. Each year sees more activities, campaigns and initiatives designed to draw attention to the lack of clean drinking water in many parts of the world, and to enlist public support to end the water crisis. This year, thousands of Americans have decided to take an extra step - actually many extra steps - toward this goal, by participating in Walks for Water.

For millions of people around the world, clean water is as close as the nearest faucet. For millions more, it is more than an hour's walk away. Wednesday, March 22, in a show of solidarity with them, people in 11 cities across the United States are also walking for water.

"The Walks are meant to signify the walks that millions of women and children take every day around the world to get water and lead their daily lives." Peter Thum says. Mr. Thum became aware of world water issues in the 1990's, when he was working in Africa as a management consultant.

In 2002, he and a business school classmate, Jonathan Greenblatt, started Ethos Bottled Water Company, and partnered with non-governmental organizations that support world water projects. Last year, Ethos was acquired by the Starbucks coffee company, and under the new management, Ethos is sponsoring Walks for Water.

Greenblatt expects these walks to be the largest mobilization ever in the history of World Water Day. "We're going to be joined by members of community organizations, like local area Rotary clubs, by student groups like Net Impact, by non-profits like 'Water for People,' all of whom are coming together," he says, "and people are participating in these walks."

Participants will walk together along a three to five kilometer route in the various cities, many carrying water jugs to symbolize their cause. Peter Thum says raising awareness about a problem is the first step toward finding solutions. He says everyone around the world is welcome to join the Walks for Water campaign.

"Go to our website," he says. "On that website people can see pictures about the world water crisis. They can learn about the issue. They can send e-mail with post card pictures to their friends to let people know about the issue. You can sign up on line for Walks for Water. You can also sign up for virtual Walks for Water."

Last summer, Thum and Greenblatt spent ten weeks driving across the country in a big blue bio-diesel bus to raise awareness about the world water crisis and sell Ethos bottled water. Greenblatt says five cents from each bottle they sell is donated to a fund that supports clean water projects in other parts of the world. "We set a goal to raise $10 million over the next 5 years to bring clean water to children in places like Kenya, Ethiopia, Honduras, India and Bangladesh and across the world," he says.

Jonathan Greenblatt says Walks for Water is not a one-time campaign. It's the beginning of an annual tradition on World Water Day that will give individuals a unique opportunity to play a personal role in alleviating the world water crisis.

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