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Access to Safe Water
Complete these exercises with information from the Text.

Text Exercises

1. Read the Text and the definition of access to safe water and answer the following questions:

  1. What does this indicator measure?
  2. How is "reasonable" access defined for people in urban areas?
  3. How is "reasonable" access defined for people in rural areas?
  4. What would you consider a reasonable amount of time to spend each day getting water?
  5. How do you and your family get water?

2. When people drink contaminated water, they can become ill. Answer each of the following questions briefly, referring back to the Text if necessary.

  1. How many people suffer each year from diarrheal diseases related to dirty water?
  2. Which people or age group(s) are at greatest risk? Why might this be the case?
  3. If so many people become ill from contaminated water, why do they drink it?

3. Using the Text and your own experience, complete the following exercises.

  1. Make a list of some of the ways in which you and your community use water. To the right of each item, write an "H" for household uses or a "C" for community use. Place an asterisk (*) next to the items that probably require safe water.
  2. Which of these uses are likely to pollute water?

4. Listed below are some household uses of water and estimates of how much water they use (based on an industrial country plumbing system). From these estimates, answer the questions that follow.

Flushing toilets

3–5 gallons of water per flush

Brushing teeth, washing dishes, etc.

3–5 gallons of water per minute for running tap


5–7 gallons of water per minute


35–50 gallons of water per bath

  1. Assuming that each member of your family had access to 20 liters (approximately 5 gallons) of safe water each day (the amount most often cited as being "adequate" when defining access to safe water), make a list of how you would use the water.
  2. How would you conserve the water?
  3. How could you re-use some of the water for other purposes?

5. In Bangladesh, the poorest people spend 11 percent of their household income on fuel to boil their drinking water. In the urban slums of Nigeria, people spend 18 percent of the household income for water. In Port of Spain, the capital of Trinidad and Tobago, the poorest people spend 20 percent of their household income for water.

  1. Find these three countries on the Map. What regions do they belong to?
  2. How much would a family earning $40,000 a year spend for water in each of these countries? (Convert each percentage to a decimal by dividing it by 100, and then multiply each decimal by $40,000.)

6. Answer each of the following questions briefly, referring back to the Text if necessary.

  1. What are three major contaminants that contribute to the scarcity of safe water?
  2. How can contamination from human waste be minimized?
  3. How might contamination from agricultural and industrial waste be minimized?

7. What does it mean to say that safe water is an "economic" good?

8. Why is it important for all of the consumers of water to be part of the decisionmaking processes concerning safe water and sanitation?

9. Use the Text, Charts, and Data Tables to argue for or against this statement:

The poorest people suffer the most from the lack of safe water.

10. Are there times when people in your community do not have enough water? When? Why? What do people do? Are there any government or community policies to help during these times? If so, what are they?

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