06/07/2011 03:19 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

I Am a Water Billionaire

Compared to one out of six of my neighbors around the world, I am a water billionaire -- make that a zillionaire.

When I want a drink of water, I have two choices: a kitchen faucet at my fingertips or bottled water delivered every other week in handy two gallon jugs. Not only that, but my house has a functioning toilet that at the turn of handle flushes and refills with water.

My home office desk, where I am typing this blog, faces a patio level window. Directly across the leafy, well-watered patio gurgles a fountain, pictured here:

photo credits: Jonathan C. Lewis

In contrast, one-sixth of the world's population does not have access to a glass of clean drinking water. If the United States suffered this thirsty fate, 52 million Americans -- every man, woman and child in the states of Colorado, Connecticut , Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Wisconsin and Wyoming, combined -- would be without water.

According to water facts of life from the Blue Planet Network half of the world's hospital beds are filled with people suffering from water related illnesses. 2.2 million people, most of them children, die every year from diseases caused by the lack of safe drinking water and inadequate sanitation. In the past 10 years, diarrhea has killed more children than all the people slaughtered in armed conflicts since World War II.

The average American uses 100 to 175 gallons of water per day. An entire Africa family which uses a mere 5 gallons per day. Even at this low consumption rate, roughly 40 million hours annually are wasted as African women and girls become water carts, tramping four miles on average, lugging heavy jugs filled from filthy, germy water sources.

According to the U.N. Development Program, $1 spent in Africa on water and sanitation generates a return of $9 in saved time, increased productivity, and reduced health costs.

In China, India and Indonesia, twice as many people are dying from diarrheal diseases than from HIV/AIDS. Need to know more? Want to know more?

By nightfall another 6,000 children will die from a disease because their parents cannot turn on a faucet and pour a glass of water for their children. Do the math. That is equivalent to 20 jumbo jets crashing today alone -- each plane loaded with kids.

Calculate your own water footprint at Water Footprint. Plus, quench your inner thirst with three Opportunity Collaboration Delegates tackling the water challenge: Blue Planet Run to reach 70 water groups in 23 countries, to finance a well and Wello to rescue a woman from water slavery.