Water – freely available and free?

Posted on 22. Oct, 2012 by in Issue 14 April 2012

As we approach the warmer summer days, and visions of sparkling pools and long cool drinks intensify, what better time to reflect on the abundance, or not, of water? Water is something we all take for granted. But for the 884 million people who don’t have access to clean water and safe sanitation, getting the next bucket of water is a constant worry. Nearly a billion people lack access to safe water.

  • 3.575 million people die annually from water born diseases (some 4,000 children die daily)
  • 2.6 billion people lack toilet and sewage systems
  • In some countries people survive on ten litres a day, whereas the average person in the UK person uses 160 litres a day (drinking less than two and flushing 50 litres down the toilet).

“Nothing is more useful than water: but it will purchase scarce anything; scarce anything can be had in exchange for it. A diamond, on the contrary, has scarce any use-value; but a very great quantity of other goods may frequently be had in exchange for it.”

Adam Smith

Doing the laundrey

There is growing recognition of the value of using the water we already have more efficiently but when a tap flows freely do we always appreciate what using less means? The woman in the picture (right) carried this water from a standpipe (shared with 30 other homes) to wash her clothes; she will use the same water to wash herself before she uses it for cleaning.

The other picture represents the community toilet. She feels lucky that she has these facilities – would we appreciate them in the same way?

A shared toilet

Can you imagine how our relationship with water might change if we had to walk fifty yards down a track for all our water needs?

Yes, we are fortunate. However, water is a valuable resource and with climate change may become more scarce (droughts are predicted this year in the UK). It is also not free: in 2010/11 95,388,000 litres of water was used at BU.

The University’s total water/sewage bill was £241,327.87 (£89,125 water only). As we want to be the greenest university, we need everyone to contribute towards sustainable development – making sure we do not waste water is an essential part of the jigsaw.

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