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Water - Precious Gift of Life

2003 is World Water Year. Over I billion people don't have water within a 15 minute walk of their home. Unsafe drinking water and bad, or non-existent sanitation, is the world's Number One killer. Each year at least 5 million people die from water related diseases and a further 250 million are ill. By 2025 two thirds of the world's population will live in countries with moderate or severe water shortage. At the Johannesburg Summit in 2002 governments committed themselves to halving the proportion of those with access to safe drinking water and sanitation worldwide. Even Britain is not without problems. It may be rainy here, but our dense population makes us the most water-stressed large country in Europe, especially in the south-east where there are plans to build more than 1 million homes by 2016 with serious doubts about whether there will be an adequate water supply to provide for them all.

The European Christian Environmental Network promotes an annual 'Creation Time' in September and October. This year their theme is water. They say, correctly, that as all life depends on water, "the issue is of crucial importance for the witness of the churches. Since the survival of living creatures is at stake, they have no other choice than to respond and call for responsible approaches to the issue. Churches will underline the unique role of water for all living creatures. Christians regard water as the gift of the Creator. Water is the symbol of life and of God's grace. Water represents therefore more than a means. Christians praise God for his gifts. Water deserves respect and care. Churches must learn again to value water as a life giving force. God's gift is meant to give life to all creation. The first task of Christians is therefore to remind themselves and the world around them of the true value of water. Saint Francis rightly called water our 'sister' - not an object but a life giving co-creature."

So what's to be done? Massive expensive projects often lead to more problems than they solve. Simple, local solutions are frequently the best. Water Aid has improved living conditions for many in Nepal by providing low cost cover slabs for latrines and in Mozambique by installing ecological sanitation latrines which need no water at all. In the UK we can install water butts from the house drain pipes, put a 'hippo' in the cistern and mend dripping taps to reduce consumption.

For those who are puzzled - a 'hippo' is a rubber balloon which when put in the WC cistern reduces the amount of water in each flush! They are available from most water companies.

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