Marathoner Mina Guli on addressing the global water crisis

Runner stands looking at dry watering hole
Mina Guli headshot

HOME Melbourne, Australia

CAUSE Businesswoman and activist Mina Guli is the CEO and founder of Thirst, a nonprofit focused on raising awareness about water issues and safeguarding the planet’s water resources. On World Water Day in 2022, Guli embarked on a yearlong journey, completing 200 marathons in water-stressed locations from Australia to Zambia. The feat, part of her Run Blue campaign supported by WWF, aimed to spotlight the scale of the global water crisis and inspire action in the run-up to the 2023 UN Water Conference.

What motivates you to campaign around water issues?

Water is fundamental to life. When I was traveling, I asked everyone I met, “What does water mean to you?” The answer was universal: “Water is life.” Water is everything to everyone, everywhere. But we treat it as if it’s nothing, which has created our worsening crisis.

What is the connection between running and activism?

For me, running is a struggle; it doesn’t come naturally. But I do it because I want to show that when we set goals that are big, bold, or terrifying and take small steps toward achieving them, we realize nothing is out of reach—whether it’s running more than 5,000 miles in one year or solving the global water crisis. We can all take those first steps toward change.

You visited 32 countries for your Run Blue campaign. What did you see while running?

The world has an urgent water problem, and it’s affecting billions of people. I ran through cities that have run out of water, where it’s a daily struggle to find water for basic needs. I ran across once-fertile salt pans that are now barren deserts. I saw glaciers melting and rivers running dry. I met farmers who pray for rain and countless people who have lost their livelihoods due to a dramatically changing climate.

How has the water crisis evolved since you launched Thirst?

It’s accelerating with the pace of climate change. As weather becomes more extreme, water issues are exacerbated, from droughts to floods and storms. Experts have forecasted a growing gap between the supply of and demand for freshwater. If we want to tackle the water, nature, and climate crises, then we need to invest in restoring and protecting healthy freshwater ecosystems—rivers, lakes, wetlands, and aquifers—and we need to start now.

What are the greatest opportunities in your work?

We’ve built immense momentum. Our challenge now is to drive that momentum toward action. To do that, we must lift up the voices of people on the front lines and involve them in the conversation. Governments, corporations, and decision-makers need to understand what’s happening on the ground. Only by working together can we ensure a better future for everybody.

Hand turning water spigot

One-quarter of the world’s people experience extremely high water stress every year, meaning they use at least 80% of their freshwater supplies.

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