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RUN BLUE: Mina Guli runs 200 marathons in a a year to raise awareness of the world’s water crisis

June 1, 2022
Mina Guli runs along the Murray River in Barmah National Park, Australia. Image: Thirst Foundation

Mina Guli is the founder and CEO of Thirst Foundation, a non-profit organisation which seeks to address the world’s water crisis.

Mina is running 200 marathons over the course of a year in some of the most water-stressed places in the world. Her final marathon will take place on 23rd March 2023 in New York City to coincide with World Water Day, and the United Nations 2023 Water Conference.

We caught up with Mina to find out more about her work, and her RUN BLUE marathon campaign.

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The Freshwater Blog: Tell us about RUN BLUE: why is it important to talk about water right now, and what do you hope to achieve with the campaign?

Mina Guli: The RUN BLUE campaign empowers companies and inspires people around the world to join together to raise awareness, create urgency and drive action on water.

It is important to talk about water right now because water-related challenges are worsening and becoming more urgent. An estimated 2.3 billion people already live with water scarcity. In just 3 years, 40% of the world’s population is projected to live in water-stressed areas. This means more floods and droughts; more biodiversity loss and disease; more hunger and more poverty. Overall, more suffering. 

Globally we need to close the gap on the targets set out in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 6 – clean water and sanitation for all. Unfortunately we are way off track to achieve these targets by 2030. With the first United Nations water conference on water in almost 50 years coming up in March 2023, now is the time to ensure urgent action on water happens.

It’s action from companies. Companies use nearly 90% of the world’s fresh water, either directly or indirectly. It’s action from me. I am running 200 marathons to show the urgency of what we are all facing and why we have to act.  Ultimately, it’s action from all of us. We can all become water aware, use water wisely and demand action from the brands we buy from and the government. 

Running across the desert in South Africa: the RUN BLUE marathons take place in some of the world’s most water-stressed landscapes. Image: Thirst Foundation

What is the Six for 6 framework? How can it help encourage sustainable water management?

The Six for 6 is a best practice framework developed by Thirst Foundation in conjunction with senior global water leaders from business, the NGO sector, government and civil society.

The framework helps companies and business leaders in six ways. First, to set and achieve water quantity targets – essentially, using less water to deliver the same outcome. Second, to set and achieve water quality targets – ensuring water used leaves a company or supply chain as clean as it arrived. Third, to ensure the delivery of clean water, sanitation and hygiene (also known as WASH) for employees and their families in their companies and across their global supply chains.

Fourth, to standardise water reporting and publicise place-specific data on progress to provide greater transparency. Fifth, to value water by understanding water risk and water dependency as part of strategic decision-making. Finally, to take collective action by working with others and implementing supporting policies to solve shared water challenges. Companies who join the RUN BLUE movement and commit to using the framework will also be teamed up with NGOs within the Thirst Foundation network.

Mina Guli running across salt flats in Uzbekistan. Image: Thirst Foundation

Why did you choose to run 200 marathons in one year for RUN BLUE?

I am running 200 marathons in some of the most extreme, water affected places on the planet, to show the urgency of what we are all facing and why we have to act now.

Marathon #1 was on World Water Day 2022 in Uluru in central Australia. Marathon #200 will be on World Water Day 2023 in New York City, USA which is at the same time the United Nations 2023 Water Conference will be taking place. 

By aligning the RUN BLUE campaign with the United Nations 2023 Water Conference, it is hoped we can drive urgency and action – particularly among companies. Companies currently account for nearly 90% of the world’s fresh water use so companies which means, companies can become the biggest problem solvers for water.

Mina Guli runs through the favela’s with local school children during the 6 River Run expedition, São Paulo, Brazil. Image: Thirst Foundation

How did you choose the locations of the marathons, and how does running through them influence your experience of water issues in different landscapes?

As part of the RUN BLUE campaign, I will travel from Australia to Central Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Europe, India, Latin America, South East Asia, Mexico and America.

Primarily I am visiting places facing water problems so I can hear from locals how the global water crisis is affecting them locally and to share their stories. The stories of women and children in places like India and Bangladesh who have to walk in extreme conditions, and often fearing for their own safety, just to fetch water – and kids in places like South Africa who have to stay home from school, waiting for water to be delivered by trucks.

In addition to visiting negatively affected places, I am also traveling to places where there have been positive water advancements. For example, I recently visited a rural cotton region in Australia called Narrabri and was amazed to learn the Australian cotton industry has improved its water use efficiency by 48% over the past 30 years.  

I will also visit key business districts to speak about the global water crisis publicly and with industry and business bodies, NGOs and government officials. I am looking forward to the chance to give a keynote presentation at Dushanbe in Tajikistan (June 2022), COP27 in Egypt (November 2022) and the United Nations 2023 Water Conference (March 2023).

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Mina Guli website.

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