Weather Watch

Californians know the value of water. But do you know how limited access is worldwide?

Canon will hold its 5th annual pancake breakfast Valentine’s Day to benefit its charity, Well Worth It, which helps developing countries obtain access to clean drinking water.
Canon will hold its 5th annual pancake breakfast Valentine’s Day to benefit its charity, Well Worth It, which helps developing countries obtain access to clean drinking water. Special to The Tribune

We as Californians are well aware that water is a limited and precious resource. Periods of prolonged drought have created a hyper-awareness of cumulative rain totals, snowpack levels and ways to reduce consumption.

While we are aware of the need for a consistent supply of water, how often do we think about the quality? I learned the hard way.

The summer between high school graduation and going into the Navy, I worked on a small hydroelectric project near the Feather River in Northern California. At our camp, we freely drank the water from the Feather River and never thought twice about it. After several weeks, every one of us became sick and had to seek medical attention. We were all diagnosed with giardiasis.

Giardiasis infection is caused by a minuscule parasite called giardia that can flourish in streams and lakes; it’s a common cause of waterborne disease in North America. While several drugs are effective against the giardia parasites, like the antibiotic Metronidazole (Flagyl), unfortunately, not everyone responds to treatment. Like so many other things in our world, prevention is your best defense.

Needless to say, that summer I learned the profound importance of having clean water to drink. Many of us, including myself, take safe and clean drinking water for granted. But in many developing countries, the average person spends up to six hours a day trying to acquire water for their households, a burden I could not even imagine.

“Water is the most important elixir of life, one that we in the U.S. sometimes take for granted when we turn on our taps or step into the shower. But increasingly, Americans need to pay heed to the risks faced by those in developing nations, by knowing that water is finite and can easily be contaminated by disease pathogens or toxic chemicals. Public Health works every day with well owners, beachgoers and all community members to safeguard our precious water resources,” said Penny Borenstein, San Luis Obispo County’s Health Officer/Public Health Director.

Access to clean, drinkable water may seem like a basic human right, but there is a global water crisis on our hands. According to, 844 million people live without access to safe drinking water—that’s one out of nine people in the world who struggle to get water for themselves and their family. To make matters worse, 2.3 billion (yes, billion with a “b”) don’t have basic sanitation. That is one-third of the world’s population. The sanitation piece is where problems like giardia, cholera and amoebiasis arise.

Tragically, a child dies every 90 seconds on average due to consumption of contaminated water.

The statistics might seem overwhelming and insurmountable, but groups like, charity: water and San Luis Obispo-based Lifewater International that use donated funds to build clean water wells for villages that lack water infrastructure are making a difference. Many of these organizations not only help those in need get access to clean water, they also teach basic sanitation practices that positively impact the overall health and well-being of these communities. And these investments pay off.

Charity: water reports a $4 and $12 return in GDP for every dollar donated to build clean water infrastructure. This return on investment is a result of women and children who used to spend hours a day walking miles to get water now contributing to the workforce and going to school. And since the water is clean, illness and child mortality rates see a steep decline in areas that receive the wells.

You can be part of the positive change by donating to any one of the charities I mentioned. They are each highly rated.

I have another way you can help end this water crisis. Join me on Valentine’s Day morning for a pancake breakfast fundraiser from 7 to 8:30 a.m. It’s hosted by Cannon’s Well Worth It campaign at Cannon’s office at 1050 Southwood Drive in San Luis Obispo.

I’ll be happily flipping pancakes for the second year in a row. For a $10 donation during the 5th Annual Pancake Breakfast, you can enjoy unlimited pancakes, eggs, sausage, OJ and coffee (kids eat free with each paid adult!) from Popolo, a family-owned restaurant. You won’t want to miss the special treat: chocolate chip pancakes!

Since the inception of Well Worth It in 2010, Cannon has helped raised more than $116,000 to build more than 20 wells and fund a drilling rig. The firm has partnered with the organization charity: water to help serve more than 5,000 people with safe, clean drinking water. If you are interested in attending, give Liz Moody a call at 805-544-7407 or send her an email You can find more information on Cannon’s website ( worth-it- pancake-breakfast/). I hope to see you there!

John Lindsey’s column is special to The Tribune. He is PG&E’s Diablo Canyon marine meteorologist and a media relations representative. Email him at or follow him on Twitter: @PGE_John.

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