JUSTICE AND PEACE / Initiatives / Water
Water – A right of everyone
We appreciate and foster those values
which reveal the reign of God
and confront with the gospel message
those elements which impede human development and unity.
– SSND Constitution
Water is essential to sustain the Earth and its inhabitants.
United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 2003 an International Year of Freshwater
to call the world’s attention to the crisis surrounding a most precious resource,
What is the water crisis about?
Some would say that it is about scarcity and a growing population. Others would
say that it is about distribution, waste, and lack of reverence for water in a
materialistic and consumer society.
Still others might say that it is about the privatization of water supply services
and ownership – with 95% of these activities still controlled by the public
Every citizen has a birthright to water as well as to health care and education.
Access to such basic goods is not a matter of choice, but a Human Right.
United Nations declared water a human right. In an exceptional step, the United
Nations Committee responsible for the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural
Rights stated that water is a social and cultural good, not merely an economic
commodity. The 145 countries that have ratified the International Covenant on
Economic, Social and Cultural Rights are now obligated to progressively ensure
access to clean water "equitably and without discrimination." (The
United States has not ratified the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural
People have no alternative to water, even when price increases threaten their
accessibility to it. Therefore, the provision of these goods cannot be left to
market forces. “Water by its very nature cannot be treated as a mere commodity
among other commodities. Catholic social thought has always stressed that the
defense and preservation of certain common goods, such as the natural and human
environments, cannot be safeguarded simply by market forces, since they touch
on fundamental human needs which escape market logic” (Centesimus Annus,40).
Consider these facts:
- Almost 98% of the water on planet Earth is salt water, unfit for human consumption.
Less than 1% of total freshwater is available for our use; the majority of it
is locked in polar snow and ice. In other words, of every hundred liters of water
less than half a teaspoon is fresh water available for human use.
- Global water consumption has risen almost tenfold since 1900. World population
is expected to increase by 45% in the next 30 years, while freshwater wastage
us expected to increase by 10%.
- Recent estimates are that climate change will account for about 20% of the
increase in global water scarcity.
- Other factors influencing scarcity are:
- Degradation of water bodies – water tables, rivers, wetlands and bays.
- Inequality of distribution.
- Cross border conflicts.
- The UN Food and Agriculture Organization has estimated that 100 tourists
use the same amount of water in 55 days that could grow rice to feed 100 local
villagers for 15 years.
- Comparison of water consumption per person per day:
The recommended basic requirement per person is 50 liters, but a person can get
by with 30 liters.
- The Gambia – 4.5 litres;
- Mali – 8.0 litres;
- USA – 500 litres;
- England – 200 litres.
- The water bottling industry profits from the sale of this common resource
at the expense of the environment. Pumping can dry out springs, destroy habitats,
devastate ecosystems, and drain aquifers. Plastics are now the fastest growing
sector of the waste stream and presently take up more than 25% of the volume
of materials sent to landfills every year. The bottled water industry is currently
worth $22 billion and some experts estimate a growth potential of 30% annually.
Read the following sections from Sacred Scripture and reflect on how they relate to the
issue of water in our times.
Wherever the stream flows, there will be all kinds of animals and fish....and wherever
it flows, it will bring life.
– Ezekiel 47: 6-9
Jesus answered, "If you only knew what God gives and who it is that is asking you for
a drink, you would ask him, and he would give you life-giving water."
– John 4: 7-15
Links for Additional Information about International Debt
If you would like additional information about water, a right of everyone, or wish to organize a
workshop or invite a speaker to address this topic, please contact Sister Ethel Howley
410-377-2071 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Saturday, 26 February, 2005 0:31 AM
School Sisters of Notre Dame, Baltimore Province
6401 North Charles Street
Baltimore, MD 21212-1016
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