In June 1997, governmental leaders at the Earth Summit II agreed to focus attention on meeting the need for safe drinking water. Earth Summit Watch has prepared this report to encourage governments to take a different approach in the international discussions now underway on this critical problem.
It is estimated that over 1 billion people - about one-fifth of the world's population - lack access to safe drinking water. A child dies every eight (8) seconds from contaminated water, with total deaths each year of over 5 million people. As the human population continues to grow, the problem of availability of adequate supplies of safe drinking water is projected to worsen. More over, failure to address this water problem may actually exacerbate population growth by encouraging families to offset low child survival rates with increased fertility [and procreation.]
Over 25 years, there have been a series of global conferences, declarations, agendas and action plans to provide safe drinking water for all. The United Nations declared the 1980s' as The International Drinking Water Supply Decade, during which a $100 billion were spent on water supply projects. Nonetheless, the United Nations warned in 1997 that in 30 years population growth may result in as many as 5.5 billion people living in areas that suffer from severe water stress.
Our research, including consultations with leading water experts, indicates that the problem is not a lack of appropriate language or adequate funding. There is already ample international recognition that fresh water is a precious commodity which must be efficiently managed and conserved. Also, simply throwing more money into water projects is not a solution. The real problem appears to be the lack of sustained, effective political commitment and implementation.
We are suggesting a new paradigm. There has to be a focus on national actions in three sets of key countries: countries that have the greatest number of people without access, countries where access has been decreased, and countries whose high rates of population growth will lead to severe access problems in the near future. Just five countries - CHINA, INDIA, INDONESIA, PAKISTAN, and NIGERIA - account for 50% to 80% of all the people without access to safe drinking water. Thirty-three other developing countries have seen either their urban or rural percentage of population with access to safe drinking water decline. Nineteen countries are experiencing population growth rates of more than 3 percent; and many are already unable to meet their people's needs for safe drinking water.
The United Nations should not adopt yet another detailed abstract plan on safe drinking water not encourage all nations to develop their own such plans. Instead, the UN Commission on Sustainable Development should establish a forum to review the prospects for making real progress, particularly in these key countries. The governments of each of these countries should be invited to make presentations on its efforts and plans to address safe drinking water and population issues, including identification of barriers and needs so that serious progress can be achieved. Each Head of Government would be expected to make a clear commitment to increased attention and investment in regard to safe drinking water. At the same time, the multilateral and bilateral development agencies should review their current water sector activities within each one of these key countries with an aim to improved coordination and performance. With this approach, the essential political will can be generated and the scarce resources targeted to assure that there is real progress in addressing this need.
This Report was found at www.earthsummitwatch.org
POPULATION GROWTH AND DIRTY WATER
The availability of safe drinking water is linked to population growth. Growing populations require more water for a variety of different purposes including agriculture, industry, hygiene, recreation and perhaps most importantly, drinking. As freshwater is a FINITE and VULNERABLE resource, increased human demands increase industrial and agricultural pollution, sewage and salinity, which in turn degrades water quality. This degradation has innumerable deleterious effects on the natural environment, both aquatic and terrestrial, and is, consequently, devastating to human health: the World Health Organization estimates that 80 percent of all sicknesses in the world is attributable to unsafe and inadequate water supply and sanitation (WaterPartners International Homepage), and nearly one half of the world's population is suffering from "debilitating water-borne or water-related diseases" (UNCSD, Trends, p134).
Recent literature links the availability of safe drinking water to population growth suggesting that unsafe drinking water supplies are, paradoxically, likely to contribute to increased population growth. Over the long run, continued dependence on poor quality drinking water may in fact generate child survival problems, family instability, and a lower quality of health and life, thereby causing families to compensate reproductively for optimal size. (Author's note's: These are not good "family values").
A 1991 UN document, Population, Resources and the Environment: The Critical Challenges, explains the dynamic in this way: "water-borne pathogens--which contribute in particular to typhoid, cholera, amoebic infections, bacillary dysentery and diarrhea--account for...90 percent of the 13 Million child deaths each year. Directly, this has a horrendous impact on the attainment of desired family size, whereas indirectly it prompts couples to have even larger numbers of children just to compensate for the premature deaths of their children." (UNFPA, 1991, p 36)
The premise behind the dynamic is that families need security and stability in order to plan the future. Safe drinking water is an essential element of such stability and security. As freshwater becomes increasingly poor in quality, those populations dependent on this water for drinking lack confidence in their ability to assure the survival of their children and to accurately attain their desired family size. In the absence of this confidence (or in the presence of high infant and under 5 mortality rates), and assuming that the individuals have the ability to control their fertility, couples tend to have more, rather than fewer children. In this way they attempt to ensure that at least the desired number of offspring survive. This phenomenon partially explains why for much of the developing world desires family size is lower than the actual family size (AGI, p22). If desired family sizes were realized across the globe, global fertility would decrease and population growth would slow. [Authors note: "Yeah, Right!"]
Importantly, while access to contraception, education, and quality reproductive health care are the most effective ways of achieving desired family size, families are less likely to control their fertility if child survival is uncertain. The progress made toward reducing fertility and achieving desired family size with contraception, education, and quality reproductive health care may be quickly eroding if unsafe drinking water prevents the children's survival.
Thus, a viscous cycle is established: human activity consumes and degrades childhood survival rates, reducing the ability of families to accurately gauge family size, decreasing the likelihood they will want to control their fertility (use contraception), which likely increases birth rates and contributes to population growth. Population growth, in turn, further strains and pollutes freshwater resources renewing the cycle.
This report was also found at www.earthsummitwatch.org
Protecting our water sources begins in our own backyards. The axiom of "Think Globally - Act Locally" is true.
Water Conservation Advice.
In America, 61 percent of the population relies on lakes, rivers, and streams as their source of drinking water. The additional 39 percent relies on ground water--water located in aquifers and wells.
Water is the most abundant substance found on the earth, yet only 1 percent of this water is available for drinking. [Author's note: This should inspire someone to figure out how to de-salinate the other 99 percent of the earth's water and filter it for safe drinking purposes.]
* Take motor oil to a recycling center. Oil poured on the ground or in the sewer (gutter) pollutes the ground water.
* One gallon of gasoline can contaminate approximately 750,000 gallons of water, rendering it undrinkable.
* Use xeriscaping concepts when planning your landscapes. This not only decreases the use of tap water used for maintenance, but it reduces the need for dangerous pesticides that creep into our ground water.
* Between 50 -70 percent of residential water is consumed outside in landscaping. Most of this is used to water lawns. Decreasing lawns by one-half will cut water use and thereby reduce the water bill proportionally. Contact your local greenhouse or seed company to find which turf would withstand the normal water fall in your area without having to add some much extra tap water. (See our recycling section to find out what to do with those lawn clippings)
* Use soil moisture or rain sensors that override automatic settings on automatic sprinkler systems. There's nothing worse than seeing someone watering their lawn during a rainstorm.
* Water the lawn only when it needs it. Remember: just because it's your assigned watering day, YOU DON"T HAVE TO WATER. Signs that the lawn needs water might be: Foot printing in the grass doesn't spring back after a few minutes, or the grass begins to change color from blue-green to gray-green.
* The best time to water your lawn is between 10 pm and 6 am because evaporation and demand is low.
* Don't use the hose to clean off the driveway. Sweep with a broom or use an air blower instead. If you see someone doing this...use it as an opportunity to introduce them to the concept of saving our water sources.
* Install a low-flow shower head. It will deliver as little as 1.25 gallons per minute as opposed to the traditional head which delivers 3.2 gallons per minute - or shorten the time you spend in the shower.
* Turn off the faucet while shaving, brushing your teeth, and washing your face.
* Fix any leaking faucets. Check leaking toilets by putting some food coloring in the tank. If it shows up in the bowl without you flushing it, then there is a leak.
* Install an ultra-low-flush toilet. It uses only 1.6 gallons of water per flush and they cost $50-$300. Or place a couple of clean bricks in the tank to displace the amount of water used each flush and this will cost you next to nothing.
* Only wash clothes when there is a full load of laundry. It's more efficient than several small loads.
* Use cooled water (grey water) from boiling pasta, vegetables, or potatoes to water house plants or use it to moisten the compost pile instead of turning on the hose.
* Recycle water by watering plants with fish tank water. The water is rich in nitrogen and phosphorus...the plants will love you.
* Use a bucket to wash the car instead of a running hose. Use the hose to wet and rinse only and turn the water off in between if your hose leaks.
* Use soapy (not detergent) water from washing the car or cleaning the inside to water plants or throw it on that dry spot on your lawn.
If you have any other ideas you would like to share with others...e-mail us and let us know.
What is most of the fresh water in America used for?
In 1990, about 339,000 million gallons (that's 339,000,000,000) per day of fresh water was withdrawn from our surface and ground water sources, such as wells, rivers, lakes, and reservoirs. Here's the breakdown by water-use category:
Irrigation - 40%
Thermoelectric power - 39%
Public Supply - 11%
Industry - 6%
Livestock - 1%
Domestic - 1%
Mining - 1%
Commercial - 1%
A portion of the proceed of all sale will go into a fund for Protecting our water sources and researching ways of desalinating salt water for drinking purposes in third world countries.