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Huff Po: “Shit Matters: Improving Access to Water Is Key to Child Survival”

September 27, 2013
Sabrina de Souza

by Nutrition Advocacy Assistant, and Megan Wilson-Jones, Health Advocacy Officer at RESULTS UK

Thursday morning

Alarm goes off… snooze

Alarm goes off for the second time… probably time to get up

Use toilet

Flush toilet

Wash hands

Turn shower on… water is freezing! Wait for water to warm up… hop back in the shower… ahh… lovely and warm…

Brush teeth… rinse sink

Hair… check… make-up… check… outfit… check

Still feeling very sleepy… fill kettle… boil kettle… let coffee brew on side

Just spotted dirty dishes piling up in the sink… quickly stack in the dishwasher

Find George drinking coffee I had prepared for myself… argh… fill kettle… boil kettle… keep a close eye on coffee, and George, this time

About to walk out the door when I remember the outfit I need for this evening is still in the laundry basket… quickly fill washing machine while downing coffee… ouch… burnt my tongue!

Look at watch… panic… only 9 minutes till I have to catch the train… and it’s a 15 minute walk… run out the door

In just over an hour I have already used quite a significant amount of water. These early morning tasks are very much part of my daily routine that I rarely stop to appreciate how much I rely on water.

ImageWhen I brought this up with my colleague Megan, the office serial tea-maker, we pondered for a while about how much water we actually use. It’s something we use so unconsciously, that when we actually sat down to think about it, it was really difficult to remember all the times in the day we had used water for some task or another. So, we decided to challenge ourselves. The following Monday we tallied every single time we poured ourselves a glass of water, washed up a plate, flushed a toilet… essentially any task that required us to use water and at the end of the day compared our scores.

From the time I woke up to the time I went to bed I had already used water 29 times that day. To think if I use water 29 times on an average day, that’s 203 times a week, 870 times a month and 10,556 times a year. For Megan, who had used water 44 times in a day, that would work out to 16,061 times in a year. When you think of it like that it’s pretty shocking. Especially when you think that less than 1% of the world’s water is fresh water, which we use for drinking, cooking washing, agriculture and industry (97% is salt water and 2% is ice and snow). Furthermore due to pollution and contamination a further two-thirds of that is unusable.

Life without access to water

How different would my mornings, my life for that matter, be if I didn’t have such easy access to clean water and sanitation?

282277_10150245944556656_5755113_nOn a visit to Tanzania I was quite astonished about how early my neighbours would rise in the morning, sometimes as early as 5am. I later realised it was because there was no fresh water available in the vicinity, at least not for a few miles. Every other morning my neighbour would travel over half an hour, with a buggy full of water butts, to the closest water pump. She told me that the task of collecting water could take up to two or three hours. Sometimes she would spend up to an hour just waiting her turn to access the pump. Other times she would find the pump was not working and would have to travel to the neighbouring village to use their next pump. By the time she had filled up with water, the buggy was so heavy that it could take twice as long to get home. It’s perhaps not surprising that women are estimated to spend 200 million hours a day collecting water.

While this may seem like an excessive amount of time to spend collecting water, for many it is the choice of a few hours travel or risk the dirty water that could kill their children. In fact, millions more people are completely without that choice. 783 million people are still without access to improved sources of drinking water and a further 2.5 billion people are still living without even basic sanitation. A lack of access to water and sanitation does not only have practical implications for day-to-day life, but can have significant health implications too…

Read the full article at:


From → Nutrition

One Comment
  1. Tina de Souza permalink

    Brilliant writing…

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