New WHO report raises alarm on dirty water, The World Health Organization says nearly two billion people on the planet do not have access to clear drinking water. The new report urges considerable increases in revenue to meet the growing demand for clean water by DW, April 13, 2017
More than one in four people on the planet are drinking fecal-contaminated water, according to a new report by the World Health Organization (WHO). The agency said Thursday that dramatic improvements are needed to ensure people around the world have access to clean water.
The WHO wants to see large-scale investments to ensure people everywhere have clean drinking water. The agency said hundreds of thousands of people die each year because they are forced to drink contaminated water.
Safe water for everyone
“Today, almost two billion people use a source of drinking-water contaminated with feces, putting them at risk of contracting cholera, dysentery, typhoid and polio,” Maria Neira, who head’s the WHO’s public health department, said in a statement.
“Contaminated drinking water is estimated to cause more than 500,000 diarrheal deaths each year and is a major factor in several neglected tropical diseases, including intestinal worms, schistosomiasis and trachoma,” she added.
The UN General Assembly adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015 – a series of aspirational targets for eliminating poverty and boosting human wellbeing – including vowing to ensure universal access to safe and affordable water and sanitation by 2030.
But the latest WHO report, known as the UN-Water Global Analysis and Assessment of Sanitation and Drinking-Water, or GLAAS, says countries will fall far short of this goal if they do not radically increase their investments.
Finance and basic information
The funding gap is vast, with 147 countries having previously demonstrated the ability to mobilize the resources required to meet the Millennium Development Goal target of halving the proportion of people without an improved source of water.
The report welcomed the fact that countries had on average raised their annual budgets for water, sanitation and hygiene by nearly 5 percent over the past three years.
But 80 percent of countries acknowledge that their finances are not enough to meet their nationally-set targets for increasing access to safe water and sanitation.
“In many developing countries, current national coverage targets are based on achieving access to basic infrastructure, which may not always provide continuously safe and reliable services,” the WHO warned in a statement.
Meanwhile, the World Bank has estimated that investments in infrastructure will need to triple to $114 billion per year – not including operating and maintenance costs – in order to meet the SDG targets.
“This is a challenge we have the ability to solve,” said Guy Ryder, Chairman of UN-Water and head of the International Labor Organization.
“Increased investments in water and sanitation”, he said, “can yield substantial benefits for human health and development, generate employment and make sure that we leave no one behind.” [Emphasis added]
What Is It Like to Live Without Running Water? Detroit Families Know, A recent study predicts that in the next five years, more than one-third of Americans will not be able to afford their water by Zenobia Jeffries, April 11, 2017, Yes Magazine
Each day, Catherine Caldwell hauls three gallons of bottled water to her bathroom and two to her kitchen. She and her family use the water for flushing the toilet, washing hands, and— after heating it on the stove—cleaning dishes and cooking. For bathing, they head to her mother-in-law’s house a few blocks away.
The 44-year-old Caldwell, her husband, and two young grandchildren have been living without running water in their Detroit home for over four months. Every two weeks, they receive a delivery of water from a local nonprofit, We the People of Detroit. It’s the second time they’ve been without water services in the three years they’ve lived at the current residence.
The short of it is this: They can’t afford to pay the bill, and the water company shut off their water.
Stories like Caldwell’s are common in Detroit. The city has a 40 percent poverty rate, and residents have seen water bills double over the past 10 years. [Just wait til Canada’s water is frac’d, prices will sky rocket] But more often now, it’s not just Detroit; stories of people living without water are coming from other cities—Toledo, Ohio, Baltimore, and Houston. In Philadelphia, 4 out of 10 water accounts are past due. Two years ago, a survey of 30 major U.S. cities found that water bills rose by 41 percent between 2010 and 2015. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the average American family of four uses about 400 gallons of water a day [Yikes! At Rosebud, Ernst hauls 185 gallons every 6 – 8 weeks and in winter, rations 900 gallons over 4 months], and that households should expect to pay 4.5 percent of their income on water.
As water poverty increases, cities have to decide what to do when people can’t pay their bills.
A recent study predicts that in the next five years, more than one-third of Americans will not be able to afford their water. The authors, Michigan State University professors Elizabeth A. Mack and Sarah Wrase, warned that the days of affordable water are coming to an end for most communities, from rural to urban.
Different cities deal with different water issues. Decaying infrastructure contaminates or leaks water. Climate change conditions make water more scarce. Conservation and efficient technologies mean less demand for water. Each of these factors drives up the rate. And then there’s this: When low-income families can’t afford their bills, cities raise rates even more to cover losses. (That puts middle-income people at risk for unaffordable water bills, too.) [And then, there’s the insane greed of intentionally contaminating millions of gallons of water to frac oil and gas wells, or worse, intentionally fracturing directly into community drinking water supplies like Encana did at Rosebud]
“The percentage of U.S. households who will find water bills unaffordable could triple from 11.9 percent to 35.6 percent,” the study says.
In Detroit, where 50,000 households have lost water access since 2014, the water authority shuts off the water for residents who can’t pay. This is one reason the city finds itself at the leading edge of policymaking on water affordability. To prepare for what everyone will face within five years, the nation’s cities need only to look at Detroit.
Today, between 10,000 and 20,000 homes in Detroit are without water.
Detroit lawyers joined with other lawyers around the country to fight the mass shutoffs three years ago, and the coalition is now working on a national water rights policy. The “Civil Rights Bill for Water” would guarantee that no one goes without running water, regardless of their financial status. [Canadian version would be: “The Corporate Rights Bill for Water, Corporations Trump Every Family & Farm]
Civil rights attorney Alice Jennings worked on a class action lawsuit in 2014 that managed to stop the shutoffs for about five weeks. They won some concessions, like more notice before a shutoff and more flexible payment arrangements. But it’s simply not enough, Jennings says, who’s based in Detroit.
“We’re looking for something that’s completely different,” she says.
The Civil Rights Bill for Water states the cost of water should be based upon a person’s ability to pay. It also stipulates a protected class: families with young children, senior citizens, and the disabled. No matter what, their water cannot be interrupted.
The proposal for the national policy will be submitted to Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., in mid-April, Jennings says, but the group is realistic about its chances. “We do understand that we’re dealing right now in a political climate where this is not going to necessarily be passed this year or next year, or even five years from now,” she says. “I’m reminded of congressperson Conyers, who reintroduced the Martin Luther King Bill for 15 years straight before Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday was declared [a national holiday].”
Jennings knows it may require a generational process of informing and educating to work out a viable policy, one that requires all 50 states to provide access to clean water for all residents, regardless of ability to pay.
Meanwhile, thousands of Detroiters are faced with monthly bills that can often be half their income, and people like Caldwell live in homes without running water.
The Michigan Legislature is looking at a new Michigan Water Is a Human Right bill package introduced in March. Until there’s a solution, community organizations like We the People have stepped in. Besides lobbying Detroit officials to adopt a water affordability plan, they supply water stations throughout neighborhoods, deliver water to homes, and staff hotlines for those with emergencies. They help residents negotiate with the water authority for payment arrangements. Some members have gone as far as paying a bill or two to prevent families from having children taken away by Child Protective Services because of unsanitary living conditions. They even support civil disobedience actions to obstruct shutoffs.
Caldwell takes care of two small grandchildren and relies on her husband’s modest income to pay the bills. After purchasing her house, she found out there was a delinquent water bill of $2,326.84. During the process to dispute the bill, her water was shut off. It’s been restored recently as she waits to find out whether she qualifies for a payment assistance program. If not, they’ll turn it off again.
Being without water can feel like a desperate situation.
When earlier attempts to get it turned back on failed, she took matters into her own hands, the way many Detroiters in her position have. She went to the hardware store, bought a special key, and just turned the water back on herself. It’s a felony charge with up to five years in prison. “I’m not gonna lie. I turned it on myself,” Caldwell confesses. “I can go to jail for that, I know that, but I got grandkids in here.” [Emphasis added]
[Ernst knows too: