We do it every day, and often. We turn on the tap and expect that water will flow: clear, fast flowing, germ free. Arguments about chlorine, organophosphates and oestrogen residues aside, we are clearly fortunate to have fresh running water readily available. For over 800 million people in the world this would be a luxury, imagined only in their wildest dreams.
I’m as likely to take water for granted as the next person, albeit I do my environmental duty by rain water harvesting and re-using grey water. Recently, however, I was forced to confront reality when my water supply became erratic, and then ceased altogether. Living at over 100 metres above sea-level has it issues for utility supply, especially water. The water is pumped up the hill and then distributed to the main risers, and into the property under normal pressure. Sometimes the pump, which seems to function erratically at best, stops working – result: no water. On one particular week recently the supply was on and off, and then just off. We were lucky to be supplied with 2 litre bottles of drinking water, lots of them, courtesy of Scottish Water, but turning the tap on and expecting to see water running was futile, as was thinking that you were going to be able to shower or bathe anytime soon!
We take things for granted. We are human; we have an enduring capacity to get used to just about anything – what was novel and delightful yesterday is common and mundane today. We are born of generations who accept technology as a given. I am old enough to remember the mid-seventies drought, and collecting water from stand-pipes, and I hope I am wise enough to recall how fortunate I am to be able to turn on my tap and get water on demand.
Accordingto Tearfund, the Millennium Development Goal – aiming to halve the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and sanitation by 2015 – is decades off schedule in many parts of the world. In sub-Saharan Africa, we are set to miss the water target by 20 years and the sanitation target by nearly 200 years. According to the charity WaterAid over 2 million people die from water related diseases every year. In a world where one in eight people in the world doesn’t have access to this essential resource, at the very least shouldn’t we be grateful that we have water on demand at the turn of a tap? Well, most of the time, anyway!