The People’s Water

The Clean and Dirty Reality of Water

If any resource can be used as the quintessential symbol for the quality of life on this planet, it would probably have to be water. In this sense, water is a measure of purity. Clean water brings salubrious thoughts to mind: Images of healthy living and mountain streams appear. Cascading waterfalls or tanned couples immersed in the crystal clear infinitude of faraway ResortLand. The idea of water in and of itself is refreshing; it invigorates the mind. Like sunlight, it is elemental and strikes a primeval chord within us. In the 19th Century, Thoreau wrote a piece about the mysterious light that seems to be forever present in bodies of water—even small ones.

On the other hand, dirty water is also a powerful image. Nothing signifies poverty better brown, soupy water; the kind that barely covers the wretchedness lurking underneath. Images of orphaned, hungry children seep into our consciousness as they roam uneven streets in inclement surroundings. Just as clean water recalls prosperity and independence, dirty water symbolizes dependence and unsustainability. After all, how can a population exist if it must rely on dirty, disease-infested water? Unclean water is the ultimate tyrant. There is no better way to exert leverage over someone than to be able to control their water. Without it, they will die within days.

Increasingly, we hear stories in the news media about billionaires and other investors snapping up water rights wherever and whenever possible.  Yet the buying spree isn’t limited to the third world. In these cash strapped times, many individuals and governments throughout the world desperately need money. Selling water rights may seem like a near-term lifesaver, but may lead to indentured servitude in the long run.

This post asks what is the state of clean water in the world, why are investors buying up this precious commodity, and what does it mean for the ordinary people?

First, some interesting facts discovered on water.org about water issues many people face:

1. 884 million people, lack access to safe water supplies, approximately one in eight people. 1)UNICEF/WHO. 2008. Progress on Drinking Water and Sanitation: Special Focus on Sanitation.

2. Every 15 seconds, a child dies from a water-related disease. 2)Number estimated from statistics in the 2006 United Nations Human Development Report.

3. The water and sanitation crisis claims more lives through disease than any war claims through guns. 3)2006 United Nations Human Development Report.

4. 84% of water-related deaths are in children ages 0 – 14. 4)World Health Organization. 2008. Safer Water, Better Health: Costs, benefits, and sustainability of interventions to protect and promote health.

5. 43% of water-related deaths are due to diarrhea. 5)Ibid.

6. Every 15 seconds, a child dies from a water-related disease. 6)Number estimated from statistics in the 2006 United Nations Human Development Report.

Water Stories From Around the World

<Video> Water Crisis in the Azawak

By Amman Imman

Description: Matter-of-fact account of the hurdles the half million people in the Azawak of West Africa must face every day just in their attempt to meet their daily water needs.

Azawak Video Highlights

1. Many people of the Azawak rely on the rain as their primary source of water.

2. When the rain stops, they must dig for water in the mud.

3. Children travel over 35 miles a day searching for water.

4. They are a few over-exploited wells that dot the arid landscape. Many of the Azawak people seek out these when all else fails. The hand operated wells are 300 feet deep because water is so scarce. Their yield is meager and dirty.

5. Clean water is 600 – 3,000 feet beneath the surface. Amman Imman is raising money to develop kind of wells that can access this water. One of their borehole wells can provide clean water for up to 25,000 people and animals per day. The country needs wells for over 500,000 people and their livestock. The nonprofit is accepting donations. More information can be found at: http://www.ammanimman.org/.

<Video> Quench

By FrogPondProductions. Produced in association with Shooters Post & Transfer: http://www.shootersinc.com.

Description: This is a teaser for an eventual full length documentary about the water shortage in Kenya. For more information, please visit http://quenchthethirst.org/.

Quench Video Highlights

Take a hike with the women from the tribal villages of Kenya as they journey through a rocky and polluted landscape in search of water. Oftentimes, the water they find is toxic enough to kill the livestock, an occurrence that not infrequently results in mass starvation of the villagers. The land they roam through has no rivers and no wells. The wealthy elites who run the government live in the city and seem impervious to the plight of their countrymen as they do little to help solve the water crisis ravaging their land.

References   [ + ]

1. UNICEF/WHO. 2008. Progress on Drinking Water and Sanitation: Special Focus on Sanitation.
2, 6. Number estimated from statistics in the 2006 United Nations Human Development Report.
3. 2006 United Nations Human Development Report.
4. World Health Organization. 2008. Safer Water, Better Health: Costs, benefits, and sustainability of interventions to protect and promote health.
5. Ibid.

Author: Jesse Roche

An original thinker, Jesse enjoys writing, asking questions, and creating things. Greatly concerned with the deteriorating condition of public dialogue in the U.S., Jesse started ModernFolktales.com in 2006. He posts essays there in his spare time about topics linked to major forces that are impacting society and require more analysis than they typically receive in the mass media. The modern monster is a focus of some of these essays and represents a developing body of thought about its place in American society and the role it serves. Jesse is currently working on a book.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *