This is a paper I wrote for my Contemporary Global Issues Class regarding Water Shortage. I am not including the bibliography, as this is a blog post, but if you need to know where my sources are feel free to contact me.
By Nikky Raney
The water crisis may not seem realistic to the many privileged Americans who never think twice about the water that comes out of their faucet. Many Americans don’t even realize how lucky we truly are to have the ability to have fresh drinking water as well as water we can bathe in as well as cook with, because there are so many people around the world that are unable to obtain sanitary water. Some people in the United States who cannot afford sanitary water must go out and actually steal fresh water, as was seen of a Detroit woman in the documentary Flow: For Love of Water (Flow).
UNICEF informs that the top ten water rich countries are French Guyana, Iceland, Guyana, Suriname, Congo, Papua New Guinea, Gabon, Solomon Islands, Canada and New Zealand. The poorest countries in terms of water availability are India, Kuwait, Libya, Saudi Arabia and Singapore.
Since there are so many places around the world that have such different water crises, our group decided to break it up into focusing on seven specific countries as to observe, report, compare and contrast the water situation between them. The countries include The Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Israel, Sudan, Greece and India. Specifically the water sanitation of each of the aforementioned countries will be analyzed.
The Philippines is comprised of over seven thousand islands and is prone to flooding; it may be surrounded by water, but there is not much sanitary water for consumption. The WEPA, Water Environment Partnership in Asia, web site had a specific article focusing on the Philippines water called State of Water (State). One shocking fact that this article included was:
“Nearly 2.2 million metric tons of of organic pollution are produced annually by domestic (48 percent), agricultural (37 percent), and industrial (15 percent) sectors. In the four water-critical regions, water pollution is dominated by domestic and industrial sources. Untreated wastewater affects health by spreading disease-causing bacteria and viruses, makes water unfit for drinking and recreational use, threatens biodiversity, and deteriorates overall quality of life. (State)”
It has been estimated that 31 percent of illnesses that were monitored in the Philippines were caused by water-borne sources, this water is not sanitary. Most families in the Philippines have lots of bottled water and/or the water-coolers available, because the water can cause diseases such as gastroenteritis, diarrhea, typhoid, cholera, dysentery, hepatitis and even severe acute respiratory syndrome also known as SARS (State).
A research report from February 2008 was posted online by the Water and Sanitation Program sponsored by the United States AID from the American People program in a PDF entitled Economic Impacts of Sanitation in the Philippines (Economic). Throughout this very thorough report there are lots of facts representative of the sanitation crisis regarding water around the Philippines. The executive summary said that as of 2008 that 72 percent of the Philippine population had access to improved sanitation, whereas this was only around 57 percent in 1990. The water impacts of poor sanitation amount to around $323 million per year (Economic); 60 of that total attributed costs associated with domestic water uses.
The Philippine Center for Water Sanitation reports that the main source of pollution is untreated domestic and industrial wastewater. One third of the river systems in the Philippines are considered suitable for public water supply; the problems in sanitation leads to problem in the fishing and tourism industries throughout the country.
An article written for the Council of Canadians by Brent Patterson discusses the right to water debate in the Philippines:
“Jose Carmelo Gendrano, deputy executive director of the Philippine Center for Water Sanitation, (points out) that the United Nations in a resolution recently declared the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as a human right. The resolution, which was adopted in 2010, acknowledges ‘the importance of equitable, safe, and clean drinking water and sanitation as an integral component of the realization of all human rights (Patterson).’”
GMA News in the Philippines reported an interview with Edralin Cartel, a sari-sari storeowner, who lived a few steps away from two of Metro Manila’s major water treatment plants, but “wouldn’t dare let her family drink water from the tap.” The story goes on in detail about how the 29-year-old mother had every right to be concerned about the water, because her 7-year-old daughter Beverly had contracted amoebiasis, a food and water-born disease, “supposedly contracted from contaminated water in school.” Since this Cartel has bought five gallon jugs of purified water at the nearby refilling station for 35P (pesos) per jug (Patterson).
Saudi Arabia has significant investments in seawater desalination according to Saudi Arabian Water Environment Association (SAWEA). Fifty percent of the drinking water in Saudi Arabia comes from desalination, 40 percent comes from “mining of non-renewable groundwater” and 10% comes from the surface water.
The quality of the drinking water falls below the standards of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). In some of the cities in Saudi Arabia fresh drinking water is only available every two to nine days as of 2011, but in 2008 some cities waited between five to twenty-three days to receive quality drinking water (SAWEA).
Saudi Arabia faces an increasing demand for water due to the rapid population and economic growth and clearly faces water shortages when there is only access to water once every five days. The water needs to be desalted before it can even become fit for human consumption. The corrosion of utility pipes can also cause problems for the water recipients.
UNICEF reports that Saudi Arabia is the largest producer of salivated water from the sea with over 20 desalination plants on the western coast.
UNICEF has truly done a lot to help out countries – especially Mexico. On World Water Day, March 22, 2006, UNICEF made it their goal to provide sanitary drinking water to children:
“In the week since the World Water Forum began, more than 31,000 children have died from waterborne diseases. Hundreds of thousands have become sick. And in every corner of the developing world, schools have been missing pupils because of illness or dirty facilities keeping children away – particularly girls (UNICEF).”
Since 2000 the sanitation of the water has improved 86 percent. A problem that arises is the water scarcity; which may not be directly involved in water sanitation, but it plays a role as to why there is not as much sanitary water. The 2000 census in Mexico revealed that 55 percent of Mexican households received access to piped water on an intermittent basis, especially in poor areas, unfortunately it has also been reported that the tap water in Mexico is insufficiently treated and not safe for human consumption (UNICEF).
Though there have been strides taken to make the water more sanitary it still is reported that people in Mexico who can afford bottled drinking water for their homes will choose to continue to buy bottled drinking water rather than rely on the tap water. The tap in some Mexico cities has been reported safe to drink, in places such as Cancun (Statistics on Water in Mexico, 2010 Edition).
Many people in America have filters on their taps or have other forms of filtering the tap water. Brita filters for example are very popular in American homes – and this trend is also arising in Mexico. The families who are unable to afford bottled drinking water usually cannot afford to install any type of filtering system and they must rely on boiling their water to make it safe for drinking (UNICEF).
Israel’s water is extremely polluted, along with that information Israel has also suffered from a chronic water shortage for many years – it is so severe that they fear that by summer 2012 it will be difficult to adequately supply municipal and household water requirements (CJPME).
Ninety-five percent of the renewable water is used for domestic consumption and irrigation. Israel’s main freshwater resources are:
“Lake Kinneret – the Sea of Galilee, the Coastal Aquifer – along the coastal plain of the Mediterranean Sea, and the Mountain Aquifer – under the central north-south (Carmel) mountain range. Additional smaller regional resources are located in the Upper Galilee, Western Galilee, Beit Shean Valley, Jordan Valley, the Dead Sea Rift, the Negev and the Arava (Water in Israel/Palestine).”
To focus on the quality of the water: there is negligence which has led to much pollutants from human activity in the water. Advanced technology is being used to protect and minimize the pollution of the water resources and there is a lot of monitoring of the water. It is quite unfortunate that so much of the water has been contaminated by over-pumping, sewage infiltration, industrial spills, agricultural chemicals, fuel leakages, construction, transportation and urbanization.
UNICEF reports that if Israel were to adopt the high standards of water which are common in Europe, 70-80 percent of the water would not meet the standards.
UNICEF really focuses on Darfur when reporting on the quality of the water in Sudan. UNICEF has a water chlorination program which has been helping protect the people of Sudan from infections. They report that drinking chlorinated water that is stored in a hygienic way is not going to harm anyone – and that is in comparison to the water obtained from a river source or a piped system. It reports that by 2012 with the help of UNICEF Sudan will have strengthened water sanitation.
AQUASTAT’s article on Sudan Water explains how the Nile River is the main water source for Sudan, and that the water is not safe, and with the rapid urbanization it is definitely imperative that the percentage of drinking water accessible become higher. In 2006 the percentage of population with access to safe water supply was 78 percent in urban areas and 64 percent in rural ones; it has since gone up.
The communicable diseases that are water-related existing in Sudan’s water include malaria – which makes up nearly 6 percent of all the hospital deaths in 2007, which is over 2.7 million cases. Pollution from households, agriculture and industry has also seriously threatened the quality of freshwater resources; improper urban waste disposal has caused very high chemical and bacteriological contamination Especially in southern Sudan all the disposal wells are within 10-20 meters of the wells used for drinking after (AQUASTAT).
An article on IRIN Africa talks about the towns that receive their water from the Nile:
” “Towns along the rivers of Upper Nile, like Malakal, are areas inhabited by citizens who get water directly from the rivers,” Peter Pal Riak, the state’s minister for physical infrastructure, said on 25 April. “That water is a source of disease.” With the onset of the rainy season, aid workers worry that cholera could become a significant danger.
The river water, which is mostly consumed untreated by many town residents, is contaminated with clay, wood, vegetation, potential pathogens and micro-organisms. Many people bathe in the river, adding to the pollution (IRIN Africa).”
Another aspect that adds to the unsanitary water is that many towns have no public toilets and inadequate private facilities which causes residents to “relieve themselves” in open areas.
Greece faces more of a water shortage than problems with water sanitation. Greece has many water parks, and most of the water pollution occurs on the coastlines. An article written for Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) focuses on how Greek beaches have become so polluted, the article is from 2007:
“A report issued last year by the UN Environment Program and the European Environment Agency found that the bay of Elefsis near Athens was polluted by heavy metals, among other things.
The bay is home to about 1,000 industrial plants, including shipyards, iron and steel works and refineries.
The Saronic Gulf washing the capital’s southern coastline is similarly polluted with industrial and primary treated wastewater from the city’s sewers.
Many beaches have been declared off-limits for swimmers, including some along the Faliron coast, about five kilometres from the city centre (ABC).”
Water pollution is a problem, but the quality of the water is not that bad in comparison to the other six countries being studied. There is moreso a problem with acid rain which comes from a lot of air pollution, which is something that the country suffers from greatly.
Also very different from all the other countries mentioned so far – it is safe to drink the tap water in Greece, but of course it depends on the place. The majority of places like Athens and Patra (big cities) have safer tap water than any of the specific islands.
The drinking water in India is by far the worst of all the countries that have been covered. Sujata Sachdeva wrote an article for Times of India entitled, A Pitcherful of Poison: India’s Water Woes Set To Get Worse in 2008. The article reports that in a list of 122 countries rated on the quality of water India was ranked 120. India holds 4 percent of the entire world’s water, but the availability of that water is shrinking readily and by 2020 India will become a water stressed nation (Sachdeva).
Fifty percent of villages do not have any source of protected water. Over one million villages are affected by chemical contamination in water. India has found arsenic in its water which has caused some people to die from arsenic-induced cancer. There is also a high nitrate level in septic and sewage tanks as well as fertilizers.
The bacterial contamination is the most widespread in India, it leads to diarrhea, cholera and hepatitis. WaterAid study showed that 950 sources of water in 300 villages had both fecal coliforms and fluoride. Seventy-five percent of all the wells were contaminated.
The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that 88 percent of the deaths in India are from diarrhea that is attributed to unsafe water. The water pollution is so excessive that 729 dying and bleaching facilities in the city of Tirupur had to be shut down.
WHO reports that none of the top 35 cities in India with a population of more than one million only distribute water for a few hours per day. In Delhi, the capital, residents receive water only a few hours per day due to inadequate management of the water distribution system.
The World Bank reports that travelers refer to the result of consumption of India’s water as “Delhi Belly” because of the resulting diarrhea that they get – this impacts around 10 million visitors annually, but over 700 thousand Indians are dying each year from this.
The world-wide water crises is truly a shame and there is still much that needs to be done to fix this, and the other members in my group discuss where the water is, what it is being used for and what the governments are doing in order to help the water situation around the globe.