Mina Guli and Thirst on Marathon Challenge to Highlight Water Scarcity

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2nd Mar 2016




Mina Guli is an Australian entrepreneur, activist and athlete living in China. As CEO of Thirst, her passion for conveying challenges facing the world around water scarcity takes unusual forms. This month, she is running a series of marathons to raise awareness about water issues facing everyone, especially in dry regions. Thirst estimates by 2030, global water demand will be 40% greater than supply.

We digitally ran alongside her as she departed the latest leg of her journey in Antarctica in the middle of her quest to become the first person to run 40 marathons on 7 continents in 7 weeks.

Why is #runforwater important - what message are you trying to convey?

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"The #run4water campaign has one clear message to everyone and it has nothing to do with running! No matter where you are from, regardless of your background, age, cultural traditions or how you’ve grown up, we want people to know: 

The world is running out of fresh water and we all have to be part of the solution.

The World Economic Forum has rated water scarcity as the number one risk to global prosperity over the next years. Many people ask what this actually means. For all the headlines we read about terrorism, climate change, or the latest outbreak of a new strain of disease that wreaks havoc somewhere in the world, the lack of access to fresh water poses the biggest challenge to how people will live.  

#run4water is a challenge through 7 of the world’s driest locations. The attention the challenge receives is allowing me to show everybody that they can take very simple steps each day to save water. You can see some examples (and take a pledge!) at thirstforwater.org/pledge.  

Many people don’t realize that their use of water goes far beyond that which is drunk or physically used on a daily basis. For example, the amount of water it would take to produce the clothes each of your readers, to make the phone they use and grow the food they eat, all use more water than they will have drunk in their entire lifetime.

By laying out some simple choices, like choosing to drink tea for the day rather than a latte coffee, (which would save 118.5 litres of water), we let people explore what they can do personally to make a difference and become a Water Hero.

Our aim is to build a consumer community that knows we have a water crisis, understands how their purchasing habits can affect how companies use water in their supply chains, and work together to create a demand for them to save water. Part of the way we do this is by making this ‘invisible water’ visible."

What's been the hardest thing about doing this so far?

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I started my challenge on 1st February and hope to complete 40 marathons across 7 deserts on 7 continents in 7 weeks.  So far I have run 6 marathons in the Tabernas Desert in Spain, 7 marathons in the Arabian Desert of Jordan and I have just finished running 5 marathons in temperatures of -40 degrees in Antarctica.

Each day gets harder and harder physically – my feet are only still attached to my body because of the superb work from my Podiatrist, Brock Healy, from the Hong Kong Foot Clinic, and my body still able to operate because of my physio Justin Faulkner from Physio Central, also based in Hong Kong. Without them I would be a total wreck. 

Mentally I am getting stronger. The response to the campaign has been phenomenal – through pledges that have been made on our site we have saved over 74 million litres of water and trying to get this figure to 1 billion by World Water Day on 22nd March when I finish the run – this is my daily motivation.

Industry and agriculture are by far the biggest users of fresh water - how does your campaign address those users?

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With an average of 90 per cent of water being consumed outside the home (70 per cent by agriculture and 20 per cent in industry), the real key to solving the water crisis is for companies to use water more efficiently – right through their supply chains. We do not advocate a complete habitual change and we certainly do not tell people what they should or should not do / buy / use.

We make people aware of how water is used for them to make a conscious decision on what they support through their purchases.

It is our long term goal to work with companies to make all products more water sustainable through the use of better technologies, new innovations, and a better sharing culture to ensure there is positive steps towards addressing the global threat we face.

Based on where you've been and what you've seen, how soon until water becomes THE topic?

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The WEH and UN both rate water scarcity as our biggest threat. But these are just facts and figures that mean relatively little to any of us. The reason I chose 7 deserts to run through is to visit the driest places on earth and meet some of the people that live there. I have been very moved to hear some of their stories. The manager of the village water supply in Tabernas told us how they often had to cut off the water supply to the agricultural land in order to provide enough water to people’s home and this caused great tension in the community.

In Jordan we spoke to a number of people who were on the brink of tears when they were describing how they would be forced to leave their country in the next 20 years because there would be no fresh water left.

For these people water has been THE topic for decades now and they are living examples of what billions more people will experience in our own lifetime. It is a very uncomfortable realisation but we are in a position to make the changes happen to prevent the situation getting worse."


Thirst was launched in 2012 with the aim of educating citizens about the challenges the world faces with regard to water. To date the education oriented campaign has reached over 250 million people, and is emerging as one of the leading global voices on water conservation and strategy.