Watersheds come in families ; nested levels of intimacy. On the grandest scale the hydrologic web is like all humanity – Serbs, Russians, Koyukon Indians, Amish, the billion lives in the People’s Republic of China – it’s broadly troubled, but it’s hard to know how to help. As you work upstream toward home, you’re more closely related. The big river is like your nation, a little out of hand. The lake is your cousin. The creek is your sister. the pond is her child. And, for better or worse, in sickness and in health, you’re married to your sink.
MICHAEL PARFIT, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC
Access to Water isn’t a Privilege. It is a Right
1.2 billion people do not have access to drinking water
2.4 billion lack basic sanitation
So does dirty water
To halt the global water crisis, we need an international law on Right to Water. This would oblige governments the world over to turn their words into action.
In the time it has taken you to read this page,
9 people have died from water-borne illnesses.
5 of them are children.
Did you know that:
Water contaminants cause 1,200 deaths a year and more than 7 million cases of mild to moderate illnesses each year in the U.S. alone.
Over the last fifty years in the U.S., there have been on average 30 E-coli outbreaks each year, many from untreated water and some from treated tap water. These cause 20,000 E-coli infections and 250 deaths each year.
Over 55 million of us drink water with amounts of lead exceeding “safe” standards. These levels of lead may cause retardation and brain difficulties in children.
It is estimated that one-third of all gastrointestinal illnesses can be traced to microbes in tap water.
Nearly 25 million of us drink water with unhealthy amounts of coliform bacteria.
One in five Americans drink water that contains cryptosporidium.
Experts and agencies, which regulate our public water distribution systems, have established acceptable levels of various
pollutants in our tap water, including chemicals and even human waste.
Safe water and sanitation:
* An additional 816 million people acquired access to safe drinking water between 1990 and 2000. But the number of people un served remains roughly the same – 1.1 billion – because the population grew by nearly as many people as gained access.
* Each year 3 to 4 million people die of waterborne diseases, including 2 million children who die of diarrhea.
* More than half of all desalination (converting salt water to fresh water) capacity is in the Middle East-Arabian Gulf-North Africa regions. Nearly 25% of all capacity is in Saudi Arabia, followed by 16% in the United States, 10% in the United Arab Emirates, and 7% in Kuwait.
* By the late 1990s, the total amount of desalinated water produced in an entire year was about as much as the world used in fourteen hours.
DID YOU KNOW…? FACTS AND FIGURES ABOUT WATER, SANITATION AND HYGIENE
· Water, sanitation and hygiene are three intertwined determinants of the water/ill-health/poverty spectrum, considering hygiene in its broadest sense, including environmental as well as personal hygiene.
· A lack of adequate sanitation is the most critical determinant of contamination of drinking water with micro-organisms.
· More than 2.6 billion people – 40% of the world’s population – lack basic sanitation facilities.
· Over 1 billion people around the world still use unsafe drinking water sources.
· The diseases and conditions of ill-health directly associated with water, sanitation and hygiene include infectious diarrhoea (which, in turn, includes cholera, salmonellosis, shigellosis, amoebiasis and a number of other protozoal and viral infections), typhoid and paratyphoid fevers, acute hepatitis A, acute hepatitis E and F, fluorosis, arsenicosis, legionellosis, methaemoglobinaemia, schistosomiasis, trachoma, intestinal helminth infections (including ascariasis, trichuriasis and hookworm infection), dracunculiasis, scabies, dengue, filariases (including lymphatic filariasis and onchocerciasis), malaria, Japanese encephalitis, West Nile virus infection, yellow fever and impetigo.
· Globally, between 1,085,000 and 2,187,000 deaths due to diarrhoeal diseases can be attributed to the ‘water, sanitation and hygiene’ risk factor, 90% of them among children under five.
· Improvements in safe water supply, and in particular in hygiene and sanitation, could reduce the incidence of diarrhoea by about 20% and the number of deaths due to diarrhoea by more than 50%.
· The simple act of washing hands at critical times (after using the toilet and handling infant faeces, before handling and eating food) can reduce diarrhoeal episodes by 33%.
· Meeting the sanitation target means that an average of 140 million people per year need to gain access to sanitation every year until 2015. Compared to the average of 85 million per year that gained access between 1990 and 2002, this poses a huge challenge to governments and the international community alike.