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New Internationalist 322 [image, unknown] [image, unknown] [image, unknown] April 2000

factfile on...
The wars of the next century may well be fought over water.
Apart from air, water is the earth's - and people's - most essential
commodity. But it is becoming scarcer by the day....

water tap

By the end of this year, global consumption of water will be ten times greater than it was in 1900. Forty per cent of the world's population has no access to clean drinking water.

Our bodies are 70-per-cent water. Without water, we would die within 3 days.

A person needs a minimum of 5 litres a day for drinking and cooking.

80 per cent of disease in the Majority World is related to poor drinking water and sanitation.


Mineral water:
Nestlé owns Perrier water, Buxton, San Pelligrino, Ashbourne, Contrexéville, Vittel, Vittelloise.

bottles of mineral water

Watery ways

In some cities water is rationed; in parts of Mumbai (Bombay) in India, families have to get up between four and five in the morning to collect water.

In the Sahara desert, more people die from drowning in flash floods than from lack of water.

The annual 'Pee Outside Day' in Sigmota, Sweden saves 50 per cent of the water normally used in toilet flushing.

In Kunming, China, residents cover outdoor taps with metal boxes and lock them to prevent theft.

Thailand's Public Health Ministry tells rain collectors to wait an hour after a shower starts because the rain in industrial areas is as acid as tomato juice.


Why is the ocean blue?

Because the sunlight is reflected back off tiny particles in the water. The sea can also appear green when blue mixes with yellow pigments in microscopic floating plants. The Black Sea appears black because it has little oxygen and lots of hydrogen sulphide. The Red Sea was named after the seasonal blooms of red algae that tint the surface water.


Drinking, cooking, washing
Two-thirds of the world's households use a water source outside the home, and women often walk long distances to collect it.

water truck Households with dishwashers, washing machines and sprinklers:
1,000 litres a day
Households with a
piped supply and taps:
100-350 litres a day
water tank
water containers
Households using a public
hydrant in the street:
20-70 litres a day
Households using a
stream or distant water:
2-5 litres a day
water bucket

Uncool dams

'Big dams started well but have ended badly. All over the world there is a growing movement against dams. In the First World they are being decommissioned, blown up.

Big dams are obsolete. They're uncool.They're undemocratic.

They are a brazen means of taking water, land and irrigation away from the poor and giving it to the rich. The reservoirs displace huge populations of people, leaving them homeless and destitute.'

Prize-winning author Arundhati Roy, writing in the Indian magazines Frontline and Outlook. She estimates that 33 million people have been displaced by dams in India alone.
Arundhati Roy


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