Access to Clean Water 101
What is clean water?
Clean water is safe, potable water that can be consumed or used for cleaning without the risk of sustaining illness as a result.
Where is it available?
Approximately 780 million people throughout the world live without access to clean water. This includes most of the developing world, and even 10 million people spread out in the developed world. These people often must walk miles a day to reach a water source or use the water source nearby that is dirty and unsafe.
What are the ramifications of not having clean water?
- Illness: Water-borne contagions and parasites are common when available water is unclean and unsafe. One must either risk becoming ill or go without water entirely. People frequently fall ill, children miss the chance to go to school numerous days out of the year because they are sick and adults are also unable to go to work because they are ill and miss getting paid for that day.
- Inequality: The women and children of a family living in a rural area must spend most of their day, every day, walking to a water source. They lose the ability to go to school or work and must take on a secondary role in the society, instituting gender inequality.
- Unsafe conditions: Sanitation is often minimal in the areas existing without access to clean water. People must use the toilet in public and the spread of disease is rampant, especially without a way for them to wash their hands. Women also risk sexual and physical harassment while they try to take care of their needs. Clothes, dishes, and food all go unwashed or washed in already contaminated water making real cleanliness and health impossible.
- Death: More than 3.4 million people die each year from contaminated water or a lack of sanitation and hygiene. These deaths are entirely preventable.
What is being done?
Non-profits like WaterAid and Water.org are working with communities, governments, and individuals to make an impact and bring clean water and sanitation to those in need. WaterAid has reached 19.2 million people with their work and Water.org almost 600,000 through their WaterCredit initiative. Ordinary people are starting fundraisers and making donations to clean water initiatives. Pastor Steve Spear, for example, is running across the United States to raise money for clean water in Africa. New inventions like the LifeSack and the Water Cone are being implemented thanks to innovative minds taking an interest in the water crisis.
What can we do?
Water poverty is a part of the greater poverty issue and ending it could help end poverty as well. The more people have access to clean water, the more time they can spend focusing on education and work, and the more they can thrive and prosper instead of just trying to survive. Gender inequality will start to become a thing of the past in the affected communities as women will be able to take a more active role in the society. And the more other people do well, the more our own country stands to do well.
– Chelsea Evans
Sources: Water.org, WaterAid, Chicago Tribune, Good Clean Tech