Unimaginably Large Numbers

Unimaginably large numbers are, unfortunately, hard to conceptualize. FEMA has delivered 6,200,000 gallons of water to Puerto Rico in the month since Hurricane Maria hit the island. That sounds like a lot of water and probably makes for a good press release. Problem is there are 3.5 million residents. Who should drink half a gallon or so a day (3/4 of a gallon is the WHO recommendation for an adult, but there are kids there too, and I like lazy math). There have been 30 days since the hurricane stuck. Three and a half million people drinking half a gallon of water a day for thirty days is 52,500,000 gallons of water. Not quite 12% of the water needed and my estimate is significantly low.

Doesn’t sound quite so impressive if you say FEMA has delivered 10% of the water needed in Puerto Rico. It also makes breaking into superfund sites to access water more understandable. 100% chance of death if you don’t get water, even an 98% chance of death from poisoning is a better option.

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