A GLOBAL CONCERN
Water connects every aspect of life. Access to safe water and sanitation can quickly turn problems into potential – empowering people with time for school and work, and contributing to improved health for women, children, and families around the world.
Today, 1 in 9 people lack access to safe water and 1 in 3 people lack access to a toilet.
Women are disproportionately affected by the water crisis, as they are often responsible for collecting water. This takes time away from work, school and caring for family. The lack of water and sanitation locks women in a cycle of poverty.
Empowering women is critical to solving the water crisis. When women have access to safe water at home, they can pursue more beyond water collection and their traditional roles. They have time to work and add to their household income.
The water crisis is a health crisis. Access to safe water and sanitation contributes to improved health and helps prevent the spread of infectious disease. It means reduced child and maternal mortality rates. It means reduced physical injury from constant lifting and carrying heavy loads of water. And, it means reduced risk of sexual violence and increased safety as women and girls do not have to go to remote, dangerous places to relieve themselves.
Children are often responsible for collecting water for their families. This takes time away from school and play. Access to safe water and sanitation changes this. Reductions in time spent collecting water means there is time to go to school during the day and when they aren’t at school learning, kids have time to play.
Time spent gathering water or seeking safe sanitation accounts for billions in lost economic opportunities. Access to safe water and sanitation at home turns time spent into time saved, giving families more time to pursue education and work opportunities that will help them break the cycle of poverty.
“Day Zero,” when at least a million homes in the city of Cape Town, South Africa, no longer has any running water.
Brazil’s São Paulo, a megacity of 20 million, faced its own Day Zero in 2015. The city turned off its water supply for 12 hours a day, forcing many businesses and industries to shut down. In 2008, Barcelona, Spain, had to import tankers full of freshwater from France. Droughts have also become more frequent, more severe, and affecting more people around the world.
Fourteen of the world’s 20 megacities are now experiencing water scarcity or drought conditions. As many as four billion people already live in regions that experience severe water stress for at least one month of the year, according to a 2016 study in the journal Science Advances. Nearly half of those people live in India and China. With populations rising, these stresses will only mount.
Whatever the use of freshwater, huge saving of water and improving of water management is possible. Almost everywhere, water is wasted, and as long as people are not facing water scarcity, they believe access to water is an obvious and natural thing. With urbanization and changes in lifestyle, water consumption is bound to increase.
Water should be recognized as a great priority. Instead of a trend towards war, water management can be viewed as a trend towards cooperation and peace.