The Importance of Clean Water

Guest Blog Post by ARCC Student Morgan Young

Photo by the author

I peered across the river at a little boy, who couldn’t have been older than four. In his hands, he held a little yellow jug as he proceeded to submerge it in the clay-colored water. Mama Grace had warned us of the river’s polluted conditions but I wasn’t expecting them to be this extensive.

In 2019, I traveled to Kenya under a scholarship with 9 other students from across Minnesota. We were all passionate about one topic or another but we were commonly united by our concern for access to clean water.

So many of us are accustomed to the crystal clear water that comes from our faucet or a bottle. For some, this is a thing only of their dreams. In 2018, the World Health Organization reported that over 2.2 billion people do not have access to safe drinking water. This is roughly ⅓ of the world and 7 times the U.S. population of 329.5 million. The United States is no stranger to this issue, with people in Flint Michigan still suffering the effects of consuming unsafe water. Without vital access to water, we run into problems that impede human rights to education, as well as produce food insecurity and illness.

Children, typically girls, in developing countries are often tasked with collecting water for daily needs. For some, the trip can take all day. School attendance rates are often very low because of the repercussions that come with consuming unsafe water. Children will skip school to collect water, take care of sick parents and/or siblings, or get a job to support their family after a premature death.

As I spoke with Phillip, our Massai guide, and Nicole, our trip facilitator, they discussed that most girls throughout Kenya rely on education to create a better life for themselves. Those who are fortunate enough to stay in school have the opportunity to attend secondary school and even college. The lucky few go on to become doctors and teachers to return and help the kids in their communities. The girls who did not have a chance to stay in school are often forced into arranged marriages.

Water is required for the nourishment and growth of all types of food. This includes fruits, vegetables, grains, the animals we harvest meat from, and many more. In 2017 alone, Minnesota used 95 billion gallons of clean water for farming irrigation. Without clean water, food sources can carry illnesses such as E. Coli and Giardia that can be contracted when consumed. These illnesses can cause symptoms such as stomach cramps, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, and fever. Without proper treatment, these symptoms could result in death. Those who have to resort to collecting polluted water often contract these diseases and have little or no access to treatment when sickness occurs.

Steps that we can take to reduce and clarify water include using wells or groundwater, implementing water treatment facilities, and teaching safer practices. Wells or the extraction of groundwater can provide a safe alternative to streams and rivers. Water treatment plants can ensure the water is tested, treated, and safe for consumption. Lastly, safer practices such as separation of gray water, better sanitization, and water/food handling procedures can help reduce contamination.

Everyone deserves a fair chance at life but these people are set up for failure the minute they are forced to consume the unsafe water. This issue may not be affecting you directly but people all over the world are suffering the consequences. It is important to take care of the people around you which is why it is vital that we advocate for safe practices, water treatment facilities and wells. We may, someday, be able to provide people with a fair chance at life and fully sustain our future generations, but it won’t be easy.


“Causes and Symptoms of Waterborne Illness.” Minnesota Dept. of Health,

Denchak, Melissa. “Flint Water Crisis: Everything You Need toKnow.” NRDC, 26 Oct. 2021,

“General Information.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for DiseaseControl and Prevention, 26 Feb. 2021,

Science Buddies. “How Dirt Cleans Water.” Scientific American, Scientific American, 9June 2016,

“Symptoms.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Controland Prevention, 2 Feb. 2021,

“Water Conservation in Agriculture.” Minnesota Department of Natural Resources,

“Water Contamination.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for DiseaseControl and Prevention, 11 Oct. 2016,

“The Water Crisis: Education in Africa.” The Water Project,

“Water.” United Nations, United Nations,

The Costs of Copious Copying

Think back to your last “first day of class.”  You might have walked in, sat down, and been handed apaper syllabus 6-8 pages long (or more!  Professors can be long-winded!).  How often did you look back upon that syllabus over the course of the semester?

Professors, of course, hope that the answer is every single day, but in truth it was probably a couple of times throughout the semester.  What happened to that syllabus after the class ended?  Did you throw it away?  Did you recycle it?  Is it still stuffed somewhere in a folder, tucked into the back of the drawer, forgotten for the next twenty years (that’s where mine are…)?

Last year at Anoka-Ramsey the Sustainability Committee was contacted by our campus’s Central Services, who handles the printing for the college, to see if we could assist them in encouraging faculty to reduce their printing amounts.  Like everything it seems, the cost of printing was increasing, and if printing continued at the current rates there was a risk that departments might greatly exceed their printing budgets for the year (and this doesn’t even touch on the environmental costs of using so much paper).  The Sustainability Committee, led by Math Professor Christina Sonnek, decided to challenge departments to reduce their printing, and the results were somewhat staggering.  Compared to the same month the previous year, faculty managed to save 52,844 sheets of paper in August 2017 and 101,811 sheets of paper in September 2017, for a grand total of 154,655 sheets of paper saved!  If that wasn’t enough, the financial savings amounted to a massive $12,210.17!

A lot of paper frequently equates to a lot of money wasted.

How did they do it?  Some departments did choose to go entirely “paperless,” putting course documents on D2L Brightspace and other websites, but it’s important to remember that even small actions can have a huge impact.  The next time you need to print, consider:

  1. Can you put it online instead (quizzes, exams, notes, etc.)?
  2. If it needs to be printed, can you put it online and have students print it (eliminating the “extra” copies)?
  3. Set your default page margins to small (this uses 14% less paper!)
  4. Print double-sided–make this your default setting (Google how to do this or ask your friendly IT person)
  5. Change your line spacing to “Exactly,” and your spacing to 0 pt. when creating documents on Microsoft Word
  6. Can you have students turn it in online instead (via the Assignments folder in D2L Brightspace or, etc.)?
  7. If you need to write something down, can you use scrap paper instead?
  8.  If you need to print something small out, can you put it on a half sheet of paper instead?  Central Services even has a handy-dandy cutting service!   

Don’t forget, once it’s been printed, used, and is ready for disposal, RECYCLE it!  Even small actions can make a BIG difference!