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Access to Safe Water

Research and Explore

1. You are the prime minister of a low-income country with a population of 22 million. Sixty percent of the population lives in rural areas; most of the rest live in the capital city. Experts say that in 10 years more than half the population will live in the cities.

Your country faces many problems. One of the most serious is that 17 million people lack adequate sanitation and 15 million of these also lack access to safe water. As a result, thousands of people, mostly children, die each year. Listed below are some activities that may help improve access to safe water and sanitation in your country. Because funds are limited, not all plans can be implemented at once.

  1. Choose the five activities that you would undertake first and rank them in the order in which you would implement them. Explain why you chose this ranking.
    • Set up a team of experts to monitor the quality of the drinking water in wells, lakes, and rivers in rural areas throughout the country.
    • Establish a Water Supply Board that will charge households, farmers, and industries the full cost of the water they use and will collect these fees.
    • Expand the system of water pipes in urban areas so that even the poorest people have a faucet within 500 feet of their homes.
    • Set up a team of experts to monitor the quality of the drinking water in urban areas throughout the country.
    • Give tax breaks to those who dig their own wells to supply their own water.
    • Run a media campaign using billboards, posters, radio, television, and newspapers to teach people the importance of hand washing and hygiene, how to make their drinking water safer, and how best to care for people, especially children, if they get sick from unsafe water.
    • Give the poorest people special vouchers that can be used as money to buy safe water or fuel for boiling the water they have.
    • Repair existing water and sewer pipes in urban areas so that clean water is not wasted and dirty water can be safely carried away.
    • Make laws that force factories to stop dumping their untreated waste water into rivers and lakes, and establish a team of inspectors to enforce the laws.
    • Build two large additional sewerage treatment plants for the capital city.
    • Create five mobile health teams that will travel around the country teaching people about the importance of hand washing and better hygiene, how to make their drinking water safer, and how to care for people, especially children, who get sick from unsafe water.
  2. Are there any activities listed that you would not use? Explain.
  3. What are three additional activities that you would add to your list? Describe each one and explain how would you fit them into your ranking.

2. How does your family use water and how much do they use?

  1. Make a table with 3 columns. In the first column, list all of the ways water is consumed by your family over the course of a week. In the second column, write how frequently each activity is performed (for example, drinking: 210 glasses/week; laundry: 5 loads/week.) In the third column, figure out the approximate amount of water consumed by this activity each week. If you do not know how much water is used for a given activity, you can use the following list* to make estimates. For activities that are not listed, for example washing a car with a hose, you can approximate consumption by timing how long it takes to wash the car, and multiply that by the amount of water flows through the hose per minute.

    Toilet flush 6-11 litres
    Bath 120 litres
    Shower 14 litres/minute
    Washing machine 150 litres/load
    Dishwashing (auto) 30 litres/load
    Dishwashing (by hand) 10 litres
    Sprinkler 10 litres/minute
    Running garden hose 20 litres/minute
    Running tap water 6-10 litres/minute
    Filling swimming pool 50,000 litres/pool

  2. How much water is wasted by water system leaks in your home? Check for leaking faucets, running toilets, and leaking water tanks. A slow drip from a water tap can waste up to 11,000 litres/month; even more for a steadily running toilet.
  3. Make a list of at least ten ways you can help to conserve water in your household, then choose three of the most promising and try to do them for one month in your home. At the end of the month figure out how much water you have saved.
  4. If your family receives a monthly water bill, compare the water bill from the month before you started your conservation efforts with the next month’s bill. How much money did you save your family?

3. In order to make responsible decisions about community water supplies, it is important to have a full understanding of where water comes from and how water quality is maintained. Research your own water supply by answering the following questions. Use a variety of sources which may include your family, government offices, library, newspapers, internet, and local utility companies.

  1. Where does your water come from, and how does it get to your home?
  2. Does everyone in your community get their water from the same source? If not, what are the other sources, and how many people use them?
  3. Are some of these sources more expensive than others?
  4. How is water from all of the sources tested for quality, and how frequently? Are some of the sources safer than others?
  5. What are the greatest threats to water quality where you live?
  6. How reliable is your water supply? Research the average rainfall for your area. When are the driest months? Are there times when safe water is in short supply? If yes, what does your community do at these times?
  7. What can you do to help ensure sustainable water use in your community?

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