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Ice bucket challenge raises questions


By Ted Petersen and Megan Johnson
On September 15, 2014

Graphic by Zach Kulish

Ted Petersen

The Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Ice Bucket Challenge has been sweeping the nation and filling the feeds of social media sites for over a month. 

As the campaign continues, some are challenging the chosen method of raising awareness: Dumping a bucket of ice water over one’s head. In a world where, according to, 1.1 billion people don’t have access to clean drinking water, some claim the benefits of the ALS ice bucket challenge are at the expense of a more widespread world issue. The statistics behind the challenge clearly indicate that this isn’t the case.

According to the ALSA website, in the period from July 29 to Aug. 29 they have received more than $100 million in donations. That’s compared to last year’s total of $2.8 million during the same time period, and doesn’t even account for the benefits of raising awareness. 

Thanks to the Ice Bucket Challenge, ALS is no longer a disease that must be called “ALS, you know, Lou Gehrig’s disease”. Americans know the disease, have seen the videos of those affected doing the challenge and can begin to grasp the devastation it causes.

Nobody can argue the success of the Ice Bucket Challenge in raising funds and awareness but what about the wasted water? Simply put, that bucket of water that’s just been dumped out was never going to be shipped to someone who needs it. 

Organizations such as Charity Water already exist to improve access to clean drinking water via methods like wells and purification systems. While promoting clean drinking water is a worthy cause, none of the water poured over heads for ALS in America is at the expense of areas without access to clean water.  

However, for those who live in a drought stricken area, such as California, or those who have a severe aversion to ice water, the challenge includes the simple alternative of donating instead.


Megan Johnson

I know I am not the only one who has a Facebook newsfeed blowing up with videos and nominations for the ALS ice bucket challenge. However annoying it may seem at the time, it is for a noble cause. Surely no one would have anything to protest about, right? Wrong. 

According to the ALS Association, nearly 5,600 people die from the disease annually; it affects thousands more. The aftermath of ALS from patient to family can be devastating.  

A total of 5,600 may seem like a large number but in comparison to the number of children who die each year from lack of safe drinking water, it is minor. 

So overall, waterborne illnesses significantly affect more people than ALS alone does. 

Even though the ice bucket challenge is raising money for a worthy cause, do you ever stop and think of the thousands of gallons of clean drinking water we are just throwing over our heads to the ground?  It is wasteful and we should think of an alternative way to raise money. 

Food and Water Watch states that 780 million people in the world live without clean drinking water and every 20 seconds a child under the age of five dies due to waterborne illnesses. Diarrhea alone killed more children in the last decade than in all armed conflicts since WWII combined. Dirty water kills more children than malaria, HIV/AIDS, and traffic accidents joined.

Given these statistics, I believe that even though the ALS ice bucket challenge was exceedingly effective, it was a general waste of clean drinking water. 

After all is said and done, I am happy for the thousands of lives that will be helped because of the ice bucket challenge; I even did the challenge myself.

On the flip side, I would love to see the world work together again in order to save lives from other world issues or illnesses using alternative ways to make donating more exciting.

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