UNICEF NU hosts relay race for clean water


Weinberg junior Jessica Marone pours her water back into Lake Michigan after the race. By Aditi Bhandari

Nearly 20 Northwestern students braved the biting wind Saturday to participate in the campus’ first ever “Water Walk.” The Walk was organized by student group UNICEF NU to raise funds to supply fresh water to people affected by the recent Nepal earthquake. With the monsoon season approaching, the survivors are increasingly in need of fresh water, as stagnated water gets contaminated easily.

The premise was simple; each team of three to four participants had to walk a relay race along the Lakefill with a bucket one-third full of water, taking care not to spill it. The water was taken from Lake Michigan and poured back in at the end of the race.

Though the event was called the “Water Walk,” participants actually ran through the relay course, unfazed by the weight of the buckets.

“I figured that people would walk, because they were heavy,” said Arianna Farmer, incoming president of UNICEF NU and one of the event organizers. “I was quite surprised.”

Though the event had been planned in advance, Farmer said it was not connected to National Drinking Water Week, celebrated annually from May 3-9. National Drinking Water Week was created by the American Water Works Association 35 years ago to recognize the importance of water to human life.

Global health professor Michael Diamond, faculty advisor for UNICEF NU, addressed the students before the event.

“I want to thank you all on behalf of the children, women and families in the world for what you are doing,” he said. “Water is really going to be our future in many, many ways; we’re already seeing evidence of this in places like the West Coast.”

Sanjana Lakshmi, a Weinberg sophomore from Saratoga, CA, said she connected with the message.

“We’re going through a drought right now, and whenever I go home people are always talking about how they have to take shorter showers and other water restrictions,” she said. “I’ve been noticing it a lot more when it comes to my day-to-day life, even though I always knew it was a problem in other parts of the world.”

The California drought has entered its fourth year, with almost 50 percent of the state in “exceptional drought”, the worst classification in the U.S. Drought Monitor Classification Scheme. Most recently, California Gov. Jerry Brown instituted a 25 percent restriction on water use.

With the end of worldwide water shortages nowhere in sight, UNICEF NU will continue their efforts to increase awareness about the importance of water conservation.

“Sometimes, we take certain things for granted,” Diamond said. “[Events like these] make sure students understand what a scarce an valuable resource this is, and just think about how lucky they are to have fresh, clean water. ”

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