In Russia, places that spend long winters covered in snow hit a record 35 degrees in June – as hot as India. Roads have melted and it's too hot to sleep. In northwest America, more and more thirsty bears (and rattlesnakes - yikes!) are wandering into towns, to find something to drink.
It's all part of global warming. This is causing extreme heatwaves – and drying up the water people (and animals) need, not just for drinking, cooking and washing but also to grow food. Droughts are a particular problem in India.
That's where schoolgirl Garvita Gulhati came up with a solution to stop wasting water. She now leads efforts to get people all over the world to understand how we can all do our bit to preserve this most precious resource.
Lack of rain and hot weather has made life very hard for Indian farmers. In villages, many young girls spend their days not in school but walking for hours to carry back water to their families in pots perched on their heads.
Garvita was just 15 when decided she had to do something. Since then, in just six years, she has alerted millions of people to the problems of water shortages. In May, the famous American business magazine Forbes named Garvita one of the world’s young people aged under 30 who are doing the most to change the world.
Garvita was at school when she heard about a number: 14 million. That’s the number of litres of water that Indians wasted every year in restaurants when they leave glasses of water only partly drunk.
“For me it was an absolute shocker,” Garvita told WoW! News. When she went to restaurants with her parents in her home city of Bangalore, she saw people leaving glasses of water after they’d eaten. And she thought of the poor girls in villages who had to walk for miles and miles just to get water for their family.
Garvita saw there was a problem. At first, she was anxious and sad, because she couldn’t see how she could solve the problem, as just one kid. But then she realised that she could use her energy and talent for persuading people to change things.
Ask the waiters
She started going to restaurants in her neighbourhood to ask waiters only to give people only as much water as they were really going to drink.
At first, the restaurant owners and waiters didn’t listen. “You’re too young to give us advice,” they said.
But Garvita saw that it was difficult for them to change the way they were used to doing things. They were busy. Their customers expected to get a full glass of water - and could be annoyed if it was half-empty.
Glass half full
Then Garvita had an idea. She came up with a slogan “The Glass Half Full” – a way of saying that it was a good and positive thing to take less water. They put ribbons around glasses to help the waiters see the half-way mark – and to explain to diners why they were being served less water. They could always ask for more.
The idea caught on. In 2019, all 500,000 restaurants in India joined in Garvita’s Glass Half Full movement. She reckons they’ve saved 10 million litres of water, just from restaurant tables, and they’ve turned millions of people on to the need to save water so that it can be spread around more fairly.
Garvita is now 21 and is graduating this summer as an engineer from university. She’s working on amazing projects with her Why Waste? foundation to take water-saving ideas around the world.
They include a phone app that shows you how you can save 100 litres of water a day, just by changing small things.
Top tips? Speed up that shower, don’t brush your teeth with the tap running, eat more veg…
And she spends a lot of her time showing children – from kindergarten upwards – that they, too, have bright ideas that can make a huge difference.
The problems for our climate are big and Garvita started out with just a very small solution, asking people not to waste glasses of water in restaurants.
But her success has given her strength to work with more and more people on bigger and bigger solutions. That’s how we’ll fix things!
You can find out more about Garvita in our upcoming summer podcast series about Young Changemakers who have been associated with the organisation Ashoka. Watch the WoW! News site for details. And you can read a cartoon strip about Garvita’s Glass Half Full project in the latest issue of WoW! News magazine, out soon (in French).