13 December 2009

Water, Water Everywhere And Not A Drop To Drink

Water, Water Everywhere And Not A Drop To Drink

As world leaders take themselves very seriously and think themselves very powerful as they negotiate their climate change treaties in Copenhagen, while they drive their big limos and they fly in from around the globe, I have been thinking about water.

We have had an excess of rain here up in Northern England and there is no problem with our amounts of water.  As the planet warms, we may even get more and some of the lowland areas could flood.

But then I read today that the United Nations Development Programme says that 1.1 billion people (15% of global population) worldwide do not have access to clean drinking water and 2.6 billion people (38% of world) do not have access to sanitation.

Of this 1.1 billion people, most of them use only about 5 litres of water a day, that's water not clean, potable water.  That's 10% of the water that we use in the developed world.  The EU averages about 200 litres a day, the US about 400 litres and I calculated that I average about 140 litres a day, but like many personal estimates I probably undercooked it.

To bring it even closer to home, our toilets have been converted with a water-saving hippo, so each flush is approximately 5 litres, so each time we flush the toilet at home, we flush away more water than 1.1 billion people get a day.  And the water we use to flush the toilet is potable.  As the Duke of Edinburgh so succinctly put it once "The biggest waste of water in the country is when you spend half a pint and flush two gallons."

So when the great big soundbites come out about how many billions of dollars have been committed to tackle climate change and what "tough" targets we have all been set on carbon emissions, let's think about some of the nitty-gritty issues for about one quarter of the global population:

  1. Access to water, then providing potable water
  2. Access to sanitation, such as pit latrines rather than flush toilets

And perhaps the Governments should commit some of our hard earned and taxed money to these little issues.  But perhaps there are no headlines or votes to be won from talking about water and toilets.