Did you play outside today? You might have been thirsty when you came inside. A long drink of cool water, whether from a water fountain or the kitchen faucet, probably tasted great.

That drink of water might not have seemed like a big deal to you. But for millions of people around the world, that drink would have been a dream come true.

Water scarcity, or undersupply, affects more than thirst, though. Not having enough clean water makes people sick, and it makes it more difficult to grow and prepare food and generate energy.

The United Nations has declared 2013 the International Year of Water Cooperation. Through many different programs, the U.N. is helping countries and governments work together to improve access to clean water.

Water 411

About 780 million people around the world don’t have access to safe drinking water. Most of the Earth’s water isn’t even available to us! Less than 1 percent of our planet’s water is freshwater that we can drink.

The average American home uses 400 gallons of water per day. Most of that is used indoors, in the bathroom and laundry. About 70 percent of the planet’s freshwater is used for irrigation, or supplying water to land and crops. Water is necessary to make everything we use, from blue jeans to coffee. For example:

• It takes 924 gallons of water to raise a 2-pound chicken.

• It takes 1,800 gallons to raise 1 pound of beef.

Water and kids

Experts tell us that managing our water is most important for kids. They are most affected by changes in our environment, including our water systems.

As our climate changes and the world’s population grows, humans’ need for water is also changing. Children are more vulnerable, or threatened, by lack of water or unclean water because they are still growing.

A Sudanese woman carries water home in a large plastic container. Many people in rural areas, mostly in Africa, have to walk several miles every day to get water for cooking and bathing.

Fetching water is usually the job of women and girls, so they don’t have time to go to school or learn skills that will help them support themselves.