Happy Vernal Equinox!
The availability of fresh, clean, drinking water is something that we tend to take for granted. It’s true that many of us worry about possible contaminants, but that is not the same thing as having no drinking water, where the only source of water for you and everyone around you is a well that is miles away on foot, or the river where others bathe and do their business. Most of us take for granted that when we turn on the tap, there will be water for us to drink, to bathe in, to wash our dishes and laundry and water our plants and slake the thirst of our pets. We take for granted that we can flush our toilets, safely and neatly removing bacteria away from us.
What if that weren’t the case?
One of every six people in the world lacks access to safe drinking water. That’s over 1.1 BILLION PEOPLE globally.
Two of every five people in the world lack access to basic sanitation services. That’s nearly 2.6 BILLION PEOPLE globally.
The repercussions of these numbers are immense. Since in many cultures it is the women and children who are responsible for procuring the needed water for their families, water scarcity poses an extra burden on their lives. And the lack of safe, clean water and sanitation leads to diseases such as dysentery. Over 13,000 people die every day due to water-related diseases, many of these children and almost all of them poor and communities of color. Over 13,000 deaths every day that could be easily avoided if we had the will.
March 22nd is World Water Day. It grew out of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) and its purpose is to raise awareness to water scarcity experienced by so many while we here often take the right to water for granted.
Several factors exacerbate water scarcity, the two of the biggest of which are global climate change and privatization of water:
As global climate change results in droughts and flooding (which contaminates water), water scarcity will be increasingly urgent. The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates that by 2080, it is likely that 1.1 to 3.2 billion people will be experiencing water scarcity. At least a billion will be forced to leave their homes, becoming water refugees. Those who are the least responsible for climate change are the first to suffer.
Large multi-national corporations are gaining increasing control to water sources all over the world. On the premise that they will provide jobs, these companies are often given large subsidies, even as they drain away millions of gallons of water from the local sources, leaving residents in the dust. As private companies have gained control of water sources, water has become a commodity that is denied to those who cannot afford to pay.
Water scarcity affects people all around the world and right here in this country. Last Fall we heard the amazing news that the metro area of Atlanta, Georgia had less than three months worth of water left. A booming population was competing for drought-scarce water with power plants, wildlife refuges for endangered species, and the needs of people down stream in Alabama and Florida. Imagine living in a city with no water coming from your tap, where only those who could afford to pay for bottled water can drink.
Given that access to clean, drinkable water is essential to human life, the UUA recognizes the human right to water, regardless of ability to pay. We follow the lead of the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC) on this issue. We also lift up the work of the UU Legislative Ministry of California for their work in my home state.
March 22nd is World Water Day. This Saturday, please take the time to reflect on all the ways you use water in your life. Visit the UUSC’s pages on the right to water. Visit the UUA’s new pages on this issue. And pledge to work for water justice.