Parts of global society tend to waste goods that they don’t pay for. You can think of free newspapers which people toss aside and cheap gifts given to you by advertisers which get thrown onto the backseat of your car. Unfortunately, water is often treated in much the same way in many parts of the world while millions elsewhere are desperate for a good clean supply. Does this mean the water should be seen as a right or a privilege?
Looking at the background
Just after the end of the Second World War, the nations of the world agreed the 30 articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Freedom of thought was one of the many human rights listed as was the right to liberty and also life.
Looking at the results 60 years later, there are still around 1 billion people around the world who fail to have access to clean water and hygienic sanitation. The result of this is that millions of people die every year.
A group called article 31 have asked the United Nations to add a further article to the original 30 to try to ensure that everyone has relatively easy access to good clean water. The people behind the idea are asking the United Nations to realise that water is a right and it’s not a privilege. There has been some movement, with Resolution 64/292 recognizing the right to water and sanitation.
The UK government introduced water rates to ensure that water was charged for. Nevertheless, it allows each of the individual suppliers to decide the way they are going to charge for what is now deemed a product, as well as the rates of that charge. In theory, this should greatly affect the way that it is delivered and consumed by the water company’s customers.
Water charities talk vividly about the need to supply between 20 and 50 L of water per person in areas of the world where water supply is still underdeveloped. In comparison, the UK government has asked water companies to find ways to cut the average consumption across Britain to 130 L for each person per day by the year 2030, from the current average of 148 L.
While water meters are being introduced rapidly across the UK, the target by 2020 is still only 80 percent of households to use a water meter correctly by that date.
The UK government’s view is that people will use water more sensibly if they are paying for it. Over in Saudi Arabia, which is one of the driest countries on the globe, they pay about the equivalent of 2p for every cubic metre of water used, despite the fact that the government has to pay enormous amounts for desalinating seawater and then pumping it thousands of miles across the country. Britain’s water authorities maintain that when people don’t pay much for their water, there won’t be enough money spent on the infrastructure to maintain the water facilities.
Cambodia’s capital has seen a drastic change to the way it views water and its safe supply. Previously just 13% of homeowners used metered water with most people making their connections illegally. Since they brought in very small fees, almost everyone has 24 hour access to water.
Wessex Water in the UK has introduced lower tariffs for people that are in financial difficulties and forms plans with people to help them get back to the correct charge for water once the customer’s finances are financially viable.
Whether water is a right or a privilege is debatable and it depends where you live and what you pay to how you’ll supply your answer. However, it’s clear that humans can’t live without water and millions of people are dying every year because they have no access to potable water.
Damien Higgins writes for Eden Springs, suppliers of mains water coolers.