771 million people around the world still don’t have access to water close to home. The global water crisis stops people from having an equal chance to be healthy, educated, and financially secure.
WaterAid and water security
Three things are critical for water security: well-managed and good quality water resources; well-managed water supply services; and appropriate disaster risk management measures.
Water resources cannot be easily accessed without pumps, pipes, taps, tanks and skilled people to manage them as part of a service. Water supply services alone are of little use without water resources. If disaster risk is not well managed, water supply services and water resources could be adversely affected. If services and water resources are unavailable or unreliable, and disaster risk is not managed, then people will not be water secure.
All of the freshwater resources we depend on come from the natural environment. Rain flows in rivers and is stored in lakes, the soil, or vast underground layers of rock called aquifers. The quantity and quality of available water can vary over time because of changes in the natural environment or through the influence of human activity. Natural disasters also have an impact on the quantity and quality of available water as well as the continuity of services. A number of factors can combine to threaten water security:
- Natural climate variability;
- Human-induced climate change;
- Population increases and migration;
- Settlement of hazard-prone land;
- Poor service provision;
- Uncontrolled discharge of pollutants into water;
- Exclusion because of caste, race, social status, gender, ability, political affiliation, etc.
Many of these threats can be managed to ensure that their impact is minimal, but often the political will and institutional capacity does not exist to do so. As a result, hundreds of millions of people remain without access to this basic human right.
See how clean water has changed the lives of the people living in Manjakandriana commune, Madagascar:
To improve people’s water security, we use a combination of different approaches:
- Helping people demand their right to clean water from governments.
- Supporting service providers to meet demand.
- Bringing clean, reliable water supplies closer to people’s homes.
- Supporting local governments and service providers to assist communities with the ongoing management, financing, and technical aspects of keeping services running.
- Working with national governments to strengthen processes and revenue streams.
- Training users on how to protect water from contamination.
- Promoting technologies that can be operated, managed, and financed by communities, with assistance from local government and service providers.
- Promoting infrastructure and services that accommodate people’s different water needs – a ‘multiple use services' (MUS) approach.
- Encouraging community investment in water supply services (‘self-supply’).
- Promoting the monitoring of water resources to inform early warning systems for drought response and management, as well as equitable water use.
- Strengthening the ability of communities and local governments to manage threats to their water supplies.
It is not enough to simply deliver services and train users how to operate them. Institutions must be in place to help people keep their services running over time and adapt to changes in the water resources available to them. This requires expertise in service delivery and water resource management.
Our aim is to reduce the level of water-related risk that people face. This is achieved by strengthening the links between national government, local government and communities, complementing national strategies for water supply service delivery and water resource management.
WaterAid is increasingly combining the delivery of water, sanitation and hygiene services with improved water resource management. Our integrated approach provides a structure for identifying and monitoring water-related threats, carrying out risk-based planning, and acting to mitigate these threats. The outcome is reduced risk and increased water security.
What does WaterAid do to address the water crisis?
Since 1981 we’ve directly reached 28.5 million people with clean water. But there are still millions of people who lack access to safe, clean water and the impact of climate change is making things worse.
Why don't people just move closer to water?
Open sources of water usually aren’t safe, contaminated with waterborne diseases and are unreliable. Creating sustainable services, like collectively owned local water facilities that use groundwater or rainwater, are safer and will last long into the future.
Why don’t people dig their own wells?
Many people do – hand-dug wells are the most common way people in developing countries get their water. But this solution is unsafe and wells that aren’t dug correctly can be extremely dangerous to people’s health.