Despite my long-standing personal and professional interest in water, I have recently realised something incredibly important that I had been missing all this time. I can imagine that similarly to the vast majority of you who are reading this, I've always had access to safe/clean drinking water all my life. And what hit me was a realisation that I've been taking water for granted - big time.
Now, let me clarify something here. When I talk about safe/clean water I'm comparing this to parts of the world where drinking water from places you'd normally use would mean a super high risk of getting sick.
How much water do we REALLY need to live comfortably?
Well, it keeps us hydrated, we need it for cooking, daily hygiene, to wash our clothes, to flush our poop or to grow our food or keep our lawns pretty. We manufacture our computers, mobile phones, or TVs, clothing and what have you. Every aspect of our civilization depends on it.
According to the World Health Organisation (1), having access to more than 50l/100l of clean sanitised water per day presents low or very low risk of health concern. This means that that nasty cholera, salmonella, typhoid, e-coli, cryptosporidium and other types of water-borne bacteria/protozoa etc. can hardly touch us - yeyy! How fortunate are we NOT being one of the 66.3 million people don't have that luxury?! (2)
The Luxury of Water Sanitation
And it's not just about dramatically increasing the number of people who stay healthy. As a consequence of breaking the cycle of water contamination, our immune system doesn't get overburdened, we have much better chance to absorb nutrients and have healthy strong microbiome (our gut bacteria). As a result, our children grow and develop well and we all live much longer.
It was fascinating to find out that over the past 100 years, through introduction of water sanitisation in the USA, the life expectancy increased from 40 to over 70 years of age. It is estimated that ½ of the benefit of this increase was due to water sanitation on its own.
If we fly ourselves back to the 19th century UK, we'll see that an average middle class man would live live to around 45 years of age. Workmen, labourers and children were not even that fortunate. To compare, the current life expectancy is around 80 years old. (3)
So we basically have twice the time to live a good quality life, a lot to do with having sanitised water. Let's keep doing something meaningful with it!
The World without Loo
The state of health, access to safe/clean water, sanitation and access to toilet go hand in hand with each other. In Nigeria, for example, the staggering rate of open defecation (outside and not in a designed toilet) is 26%, preceded by India with no less than 55%! It isn't surprising that the risk of water-washed (person to person - hand shake, food sharing etc.) due to lack of hygiene, lack of latrines and toilets goes through the roof. (4)
What is more, research suggests that the relationship between the lack of toilet/latrine explains 2/3 of all of lack of proper growth and development of children found in the world.
How having access to clean water really changed our lives
Now we really start to get the idea how essential and important the topic of water is. Water is not only essential to all life of our planet and health in our lifetime, but indispensable for the future generations to come. And even when we list all of these aspects we need to bare in mind that there is no separation. It is life. Whatever we do locally will have a global affect and vice versa.
Over the past 100 years, through introduction of sanitation and access to toilets, our lives in the West have changed dramatically; we have a chance to be healthier and live longer. Yet somehow, all issues haven't been resolved and new problems are arising. We, however, need to remember that we all have the potential to create a better sustainable life for ourselves and better future for the generations to come.
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