The American Museum of Natural History in New York City is a vast repository of information about the universe, our planet and human culture. Museum scientists and exhibition curators help connect the dots — sometimes leaving visitors amazed and inspired, but in the case of the current show about water, probably leaving them saying "uh-oh."
While most Americans can just turn on a tap and receive an abundance of clean water, many people on Earth don't even have enough to drink much less enough for cleanliness. It turns out that while our planet is around 71 percent water, only 3 percent of that is accessible fresh water.
Several years ago, on a visit to Kenya, I saw the hardships this can create. In one village I visited, women had to trudge over three miles each way to get water for their families. Several valiant women raised money to build a large, clay cistern in the village with a water pipe that connected to the water source. This had an enormous impact on the life and health of the village's families.
At the Museum of Natural History's water exhibit, you can try lifting a full water jug to see what that's like — and considering the scarcity of fresh water in the world, think about that the next time you water your lawn, if you have one — and if you don't have a lawn, think about the water supply the next time you take a bath (using around 50 gallons) or brush your teeth (one gallon, if you leave the water running).
The exhibit teaches and preaches — and also entertains with a six-foot globe displaying satellite images of Earth, a waterfall projected on a curtain of fog, live fishes and frogs and dioramas.
The water exhibit runs through May 6, 2008 and requires a timed ticket for admission, which can be purchased at the museum or online (with a $4 service charge). For more information, go to www.amnh.org.