We would like to put this blog to a good use by introducing some scientific facts about water and cooperation. For a few months we will address issues like water as a natural resource and its relation to health, gender or food safety. We will explain what an aquifer is, how the water cycle works, how a well is built or why the lack of safe water has greater consequences for girls than for boys. The first post will be introductory, talking about water and people in a general way. First, some relevant data about water:
The picture below shows three blue spheres which represent the volumes of water in the Earth in comparison to the size of the Earth. Isn’t it surprising that they look so small? In truth they are small because they are compared to the size of the Earth. The volume of the biggest sphere, which represents all water in and on the Earth, is 1,386,000,000 sq. km. The medium-sized sphere shows the volume of fresh water found in rivers, lakes (surface water) and aquifers (groundwater). Yes, all this water is fresh water, the one we all need to live, but most of it is underground and it is very difficult or even impossible to extract (Aigua pel Sahel builds wells in Burkina Fasa to do exactly that, obtain fresh groundwater) Can you see the smallest bubble? This represents surface fresh water. The water most of us use in our daily lives comes from this small sphere which represents the water from rivers and lakes. The volume of this sphere is of 93,113 sq. km.
In Catalonia, in 2010, we used 130 litres per person every day (50 times more than in Burkina Faso, for instance). Although most it is surface water which is used the most often to provide fresh water for people and crops, ground water is also vital to maintain rivers and lakes full and to provide water to people where surface water is scarce, like in Burkina Faso.
Climatological conditions make water a scarce and badly distributed resource. Some 2,000 million people of 80 countries around the world live in places with a chronic lack of water and, as human and animal populations grow, the crisis intensifies.
Yet, access to water is a fundamental right for all people and everybody should have enough, affordable, accessible, acceptable and safe water for personal and household needs.
Now, we will give you some data about access to this fundamental right: the largest number of people who do not use sanitation facilities live in Subsaharan Africa and Southern Asia. In 2012, 11% of the world population (783 million) did not have access to safe water. 2,500 million of people live without basic sanitation. 70% of fresh water in the world is used in agriculture, which is strongly related to food safety and access to water.
More facts about water and people: in 2006, 7 out of 10 people without access to sanitation facilities lived in rural areas. According to the United Nations and UNICEF, one out of five girls of primary school age don’t go to school, compared to one out of six boys. A factor that explains this difference is the lack of sanitation facilities for girls who reach puberty. Girls also have higher possibilities of being in charge of picking up water for their family, making it more difficult for them to go to school during class hours.
It has been estimated that 801,000 children below the age of five suffer diarrhoea every year, mostly in countries from the Global South. This amounts to 11% of the yearly 7.6 millions of deaths of children below the age of five and it means that 2,200 children die every year as a consequence of diarrheic diseases. Unsafe drinking water, the lack of water for hygiene and the lack of access to sanitation facilities amount to the 88% of deaths because of diarrheic diseases.
For the last 60 years, there have been more than 200 international agreements about water and 37 cases of violence between states about this resource (water wars).
So, there you have some data to become conscious about water and to understand why organisations such as ours exist. In the next post we will talk about the water cycle.
Marq De Villiers, The Fate of Our Most Precious Resource. New YorK, Houghton Mifflin, 2000
Clarcke Robin, Water: The internacional Crisis, Massachusetts MIT Press 1993
Prüss-Üstün A., Bos, R., Gore, F. & Bartram, J. 2008. Safer water, better health: costs, benefits and sustainability of interventions to protect and promote. World Health Organization, Geneva.
World Health Organization and UNICEF. Progress on Drinking Water and Sanitation: 2012 Update. United States: WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation; 2012.
Liu L, Johnson HL, Cousens S, Perin J, Scott S, Lawn JE, Rudan I, Campbell H, Cibulskis R, Li M, Mathers C, Black RE; Child Health Epidemiology Reference Group of WHO and UNICEF. Global, regional, and national causes of child mortality: an updated systematic analysis for 2010 with time trends since 2000. Lancet. June 2012