According to the United Nations, nearly 2.2 million people die each year from water-related illnesses, and more than one billion people do not have access to clean water. As World Environment Day approaches on June 5, a non-profit organization and a leading chemical company are raising awareness about safe drinking water. They are supporting a run around the world that began last Friday in New York City. Mona Ghuneim has the story from New York.
Laurel Dudley is taking her running shoes on a trip around the world. The 26-year-old American is one of 20 runners crossing four continents this summer in order to bring someone a drink of water. Dudley says she is thrilled to be a part of this non-stop, relay run emphasizing the need for safe drinking water projects worldwide, but she knows it's not an average run in the park.
"It's one thing to run 10 miles every day, but it's another thing to run 10 miles every day and sleep in a different bed every night and be on the road, and ride in a car and travel in a plane," said Laurel Dudley.
But Dudley says she and 19 other runners from 13 countries are committed to helping ensure that one day in the near future everyone in the world will have access to clean water. To draw attention to the need for clean water, they plan to run for 95 consecutive days and compile a combined total of almost 25,000 kilometers.
The run is the signature event of the Blue Planet Run Foundation, a non-profit organization that has already funded 135 water projects in 13 countries, including India, Zimbabwe, Nicaragua and Afghanistan.
Jin Zidell is the founder of the organization, which aims to bring safe drinking water to 200 million people by the year 2027. He says it will require $8.5 billion. The number, he says, is less daunting when put into context:
"Eight and a half billion dollars is $1.36 from each one [person] on the planet once, or it's three percent of the net worth of just the 10 richest people in the world," said Jin Zidell.
Zidell says he uses that as an extreme example for putting the money into context, but that the financial resources are out there.
So, he says, he partnered with leading chemical company, Dow Chemical, to help bring awareness, and funds, to the global water crisis.
Zidell says Dow's Chief Executive Officer, Andrew Liveris, wants to "do the right thing." He says, of course, Liveris wants to have the biggest, most profitable chemical company in the world but also the most responsible one.
While big corporations like Dow Chemical have environmental legacies to deal with, Liveris says his company has "to be an initiator for finding alternative business models."
"[I am persuaded, together with] my corporation and my board, [on] the notion that corporations now are part of civilization for a reason, and yes, the negative baggage is out there," said Andrew Liveris. "We're going to have to overcome [it]. And we're going to overcome it by demonstrating action."
Both Zidell and Liveris say the Blue Planet Run is a way to inspire foundations, corporations and governments, as well as individuals, to act now. Their credo, they say, is "water is life - pass it on."
The message the runners will pass on, says Paul Rogan, is one he recently became aware of when he applied for the run.
"When I looked at the Web site, I was quite embarrassed that I didn't realize that, you know, a billion people don't have fresh drinking water," said Paul Rogan. "Yet I could turn on me [my] tap and out it came."
The 37-year-old runner from Scotland says he won't take clean drinking water for granted ever again.
As Rogan and his fellow runners cross several European countries, Belarus, Russia, China, Japan, Canada and across 20 U.S. states this summer, water is sure to be on their minds.