Oh to be blissfully unaware – a clean water crisis
By the time you’ve read this post another child would have died from water borne diseases. It’s not all bad news though. 1 in 9 people lack access to safe drinking water – the lowest number since 1990. Over the last 25 years 2.6 billion people have gained access to clean water that has empowered people, especially women.
The issue of access to clean drinking water is broadly overlooked in the West as we freely enjoy clean water out of the tap, or even better, water that has been flown over 10,000 miles and used 26.88 kilograms of water for a 1 kg bottle of Fiji water – but who doesn’t like the taste of Fiji?
I’ve been blissfully unaware of the true extent of the issue with my family choosing holidays to France and the comfort of Europe, rather than awareness raising trips to the heart of Africa. I don’t blame them for the choice of the holiday as a trip to places with no access to water would be more an extreme family case of ‘Delhi belly’. Yet what we refer to as ‘Delhi belly’ is far more serious for 1 million people who are killed each year by water, sanitation, hygiene and water related diseases.
But access to clean water is so much more than a health issue.
I’m a women of the age that could have been denied education and could have to travel up to 6 hours a day collecting water. I’m just fortunate that I was not born into an impoverished family in India or Africa. Women are disproportionately affected as 62% of those in the world who collect water are women and 6% are girls. Lack of water and sanitation locks women in a poverty cycle preventing them from access to education, full time work, and caring for their family. (This is not to say this does not happen to boys too).
The world would also be a more prosperous place if these people had access to water: $260 billion is lost globally each year due to lack of basic water and sanitation. The argument has finally proved compelling enough that the UN launched their Water Action Decade this year as rising population and climate change threaten to worsen the existing issue.
But what can be done? Firstly, there must be investment from local, national or international level, and the success of a project is often determined by the involvement of the local stakeholders.
On a basic technical level the most common solutions are:
Hand dug wells.
Improved infrastructure – most developing countries in the world are not water-deficient — they’re infrastructure deficient. In other words, they have water but they don’t have ways to get or transport it.
Connecting people to existing water infrastructure systems.
There are also some more innovative solutions that could change the future of water provision:
Reverse osmosis using solar power – reverse osmosis is a water filtering process where contaminated water is forced through a ‘filter’ (semi-permeable membrane) to produce water free of dissolved and suspended contaminants.
Atmospheric Water Generator (AWG) that transforms the humidity in the air into water.
Water desalination that uses the water from the ocean for public use, however it is energy intensive and the longer term environmental impacts are starting to be seen as large quantities of brine are deposited back into the ocean killing sea life.
*These are only a selection of some of the main sources used for provision.
Increased supply of water and management of water demand are also imperative if we are to get any closer to solving the problem of access to water this decade, and not let there be anymore than the current 884 million people without access to clean water. The world faces depleting water resources as a result of climate change and rising population that puts increasing pressure on existing water sources as shown by the NASA Grace mission that has revealed the extent of the Earth’s underground water basins depletion (see my previous post https://savingthegrace.com/2018/04/26/is-there-any-way-to-save-grace/ ).
I know that we can’t do anything immediately as you read this on your iphone or laptop, however there are many brilliant charities or social enterprises you can donate to including Charity:water, wateraid, changewater, water.org, choosewater among many others. Next time you’re thinking of running a marathon or to do something charitable consider a water related issues to empower people across the world in so much more than just access to a glass of water.
However in our everyday lives we can all take actions to reduce our water footprint and have more awareness of the water we use. Many of the products that we buy are from water scarce regions that have been produced through water intensive processes.
Buy local to rapidly reduce your water footprint and to save water for populations in water scarce regions.
Read my next post on whether charity is really the best solution.