Over 2 million people a year die from water borne diseases and over 1 billion of the world’s population is without access to clean running water. In the western world, potable water on demand is a luxury that all of us take for granted. Maybe it’s time we took a closer look at this environmental and moral injustice.
Throughout the world, without doubt the greatest contaminant of water intended for human consumption is sewage. Vast areas of this planet have absolutely no water delivery network. Human faecal matter passes straight into the very rivers from which water for cooking, bathing and drinking is taken. Clearly pathogens contained in the sewage pass straight back to the human population causing death and disease. Less commonly, water may be contaminated with chemical toxins. This is a phenomenon found mostly in industrially emerging nations but its results can be equally devastating.
It is sad to say that the technology to change this moral injustice is quite readily available. Portable water purification systems that can supply small villages or even individual dwellings are easy to set up and relatively inexpensive. Even sewage treatment plants for large populations are not that expensive to build. The technology is extremely basic and where land is not at a premium and labour is cheap they can be up and running surprisingly quickly.
The problem is not one of technology, know how, cost or even logistics. It is simply one of will. We in the western world take potable running water for granted and are familiar with it from birth. We find it hard to understand the impact of not having access to this basic human right which paradoxically makes us disinterested in its absence elsewhere in the world.