World Water Day

It’s World Water Day.

This year’s World Water Day focuses attention on food security – because for all the water we drink, more water goes in to producing our food. While we may drink between 2 and 4 litres of water per day, to produce a kilo of wheat needs 1,500 litres of water, and to produce 1 kilo of beef requires a massive 15,000 litres. Problems of water supply and drought are in the news on a regular basis, and the wider ramifications for food security can’t be ignored. In the Sahel right now, a major food insecurity crisis is already claiming lives, driven in part by drought, with the potential to affect over 10 million people.

Consider also that 11% of the world still don’t have access to safe water and 40% don’t have access to improved sanitation. This despite the recent announcement that the millennium development goal for access to safe water has supposedly been met. 4,000 children die each day as a result of drinking unsafe water, and more people on earth have mobile phones than access to proper toilets. Water, sanitation and hygiene are critical to enable the achievement of development goals on environmental sustainability, health and child mortality – and pretty much all the rest. Fresh water is a fundamental resource.

It seems that most of my studies have come back to water in one way or another – from issues such as land use conflict and the displacement of indigenous peoples for big dam construction projects through human rights to climate change, flooding and the effects on ecosystems of intensive agriculture and fishing. In Ghana last year I was lucky enough to witness the massive difference that access to safe water and improved sanitation makes to families and communities, from health to education, agriculture, economic development and simple wellbeing. Water frames my understanding of international development.

A great summary of today’s stories, images and videos has been put together by PSI Healthy Lives here.

Here’s a video about the role water and sanitation can play in Africa’s development:

African Futures Project: Water & Sanitation