From drinking water in Flint, Michigan, to the drought in Southern California, the quality and quantity of water is increasingly front page news both here in the United States and around the world. Water is a fundamental resource that connects us all; and yet, how many of us can say we have a real connection with the water we depend on every day? This Earth Day, ask yourself, “How well do I know my water?” For many of us, once we look beyond the faucet we might very well draw a blank, and that is a significant challenge for all of us.

The fact of the matter is that until you don’t have enough of it, or your source of water is compromised, this fundamental and crucial resource is easy to take for granted. But times, as the saying goes, are changing. Take, for example, our shifting perspectives on food. Thanks to the increasing popularity of farmers markets, farm-to-table restaurants, seasonal eating, and locally sourced and produced consumable goods, we, as a nation, are becoming more connected to the sources of our food. The changing attitude isn’t just some feel-good marketing movement, it is a growing source of economic and environmental sustainability. Isn’t it time we formed the same relationship with the water we not only drink, but use for agriculture, recreation, and a myriad of other necessities?

First, let’s consider a few facts. Water covers approximately 70 percent of the Earth’s surface; however, 97 percent of that supply is salt water, and another two percent is frozen in glaciers. That leaves only one percent as a readily useable resource to support drinking, cooking, bathing, agriculture, industry, recreation, and other needs. Already, that one percent is not enough. Now imagine that over a billion people lack access to clean water. According to the United Nations up to half of the world’s hospital beds are occupied by patients suffering from diseases associated with lack of access to safe drinking water.

The important thing to know is that we can change this dynamic. And that change can start right in our own communities.

My team and I at EarthEcho International—a leading environmental education and youth leadership nonprofit organization—take this challenge quite literally. Working in conjunction with like-minded partners, including leading water technology company Xylem Inc., EarthEcho is proud to host the World Water Monitoring Challenge, a program that empowers and equips everyone to protect the water resources we depend on every day. By conducting simple water quality tests in your community, and sharing the data through a network of citizens from more than 120 countries, you can become part of the solution for clean water and healthy waterways worldwide. Perhaps most importantly, the Challenge provides you with the opportunity to create an ongoing connection with your water.

Whether it’s taking the World Water Monitoring Challenge, or simply taking the time to research the source of the water you and your family rely on, this Earth Day start a new relationship with the one precious resource that sustains and connects us all.

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Twitter: @MonitorWater, #MonitorWater16

Follow Philippe Cousteau on Twitter: @pcousteau