Water for Life

By Chris Wells

A local blueberry farmer explains why we need to think more about H2O.

Astronomers were excited last month at reports of newly discovered planets! Why? Because they contain water, and quite simply, water is necessary for life.

Just let that sink in for a minute, and ponder … Let’s look at Barragem de Bravura over the years. The pictures on this page are from the last three years of the lake near our home. Luckily we do not depend on it for our blueberries, we collect our own rainwater in our four lakes and our boreholes. But local overuse of water (e.g. avocado plantations, which are the new “thing”) and dry, dry summers and less rain in winter are depleting water supplies in the southwest Algarve, and nobody – politically at least – seems to be prepared to do anything about it. So if we all want to go on living, we will have to make sure something is done about it.

We can buy water in plastic bottles but as we all know that is a really bad thing for the planet. It results in the 27 kg of waste we found on Alvor beach on 18 September, half of it plastic. Praia da Luz now has a Goby (a fish-shaped receptacle for beach-goers to put plastic waste in) which does help but surely we have to use recyclable bottles. Change for the World will soon be selling refillable recycled aluminium bottles, which hold 500 ml and should last at least a season’s beach trip. Even if you lose them or leave them somewhere, they can still go on being recycled.

But we are fortunate compared with 25% of the planet, who have limited access to clean water and cannot buy any. The wonderful charitywater.org explains that over seven hundred million people live in isolated rural areas and spend hours each day walking to collect water for their families. Not only does walking for water keep children out of school or take up time that parents could be using to earn money, but the water they bring back often carries diseases that can make them sick.

In heavily polluted areas (common in low-income nations), declining water quality could reduce economic growth by one third. The Global Water Supply and Sanitation Partnership, (GWSP) state that these limited water supplies are under increasing pressure from poor management, growing pollution, degraded watersheds, and climate change! Hmmm, that resonates with me – see the start of this article!

So, perhaps we should do something. Write to your politicians. Conserve water. Reuse water containers. Donate through the link below to see if you can give something back to help people in low-income nations survive and grow. Or donate directly to Charity Water.

If you really want to make a difference, consider, just once a year, forgoing a slap-up meal for two, having instead a simple meal of soup, bread, fruit and some lovely fresh pure water. Give the money to the charities mentioned, or to A Rocha for bio-sand filters. 90€ would buy a filter that would give the gift of pure water to a big family for a whole year. That would be special.

Shocking Facts

  • Diseases from dirty water kill more people every year than all forms of violence, including war.
  • 43% of those deaths are children under five years old. Access to clean water and basic sanitation can save around 16,000 lives every week.
  • In Africa alone, women spend 40 billion hours a year walking for water. Access to clean water gives communities more time to grow food, earn an income, and go to school – all of which fight poverty.
  • Clean water helps keep kids in school, especially girls. Less time collecting water means more time in class. Clean water and proper toilets at school mean teenage girls don’t have to stay home for a week out of every month.

The Global Water Security & Sanitation Partnership (GWSP) reports that our planet faces an acute water crisis:

  • 2.2 billion people lack reliable access to safely managed drinking water
  • 4.2 billion people live without access to safely managed sanitation
  • 60% of the world’s population lives in water-stressed basins
  • 20% 20 – 30% increase in water demand globally by 2050

Did you know?

A Rocha is an international network of environmental organisations with a Christian ethos. A Rocha, which means “the rock” in Portuguese, was founded in Portugal in 1983.






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