Water is Life
The right to water, as all human rights, finds its basis in human dignity and not in any kind of quantitative assessment that considers water as merely as economic good. Without water, life is threatened. Therefore the right to safe drinking water is a universal and inalienable right. (The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 2004, #485)
Water is the foundation for life. Access to water sources that are safe and reliable is crucial for the health and prosperity of a society. And still today, all around the world many people spend their entire day getting water often from polluted sources. Hundreds of millions of people suffer from water-borne diseases because of this. Lack of access to clean water and basic sanitation are undermining efforts to end extreme poverty and disease in the world’s poorest countries: they are a leading cause of child mortality; education is lost to sickness; economic development is lost while people try to survive.
Although the United States has one of the safest drinking water supplies in the world, work needs to be done to protect our water supply. There are growing concerns about the aging drinking water infrastructure leading to increasing risk for water contamination. Other challenges include climate change impacts on water availability and quality, and chemical and toxin contamination of water sources. These issues are also facing Texas.
Issue of Water
Excerpts of Pope Francis 2015 encyclical Laudato Si’ (#27-31)
Other indicators of the present situation have to do with the depletion of natural resources. We all know that it is not possible to sustain the present level of consumption in developed countries and wealthier sectors of society, where the habit of wasting and discarding has reached unprecedented levels. The exploitation of the planet has already exceeded acceptable limits and we still have not solved the problem of poverty.
Fresh drinking water is an issue of primary importance, since it is indispensable for human life and for supporting terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. Sources of fresh water are necessary for health care, agriculture and industry. Water supplies used to be relatively constant, but now in many places demand exceeds the sustainable supply, with dramatic consequences in the short and long term. Large cities dependent on significant supplies of water have experienced periods of shortage, and at critical moments these have not always been administered with sufficient oversight and impartiality. Water poverty especially affects Africa where large sectors of the population have no access to safe drinking water or experience droughts which impede agricultural production. Some countries have areas rich in water while others endure drastic scarcity.
One particularly serious problem is the quality of water available to the poor. Every day, unsafe water results in many deaths and the spread of water-related diseases, including those caused by microorganisms and chemical substances. Dysentery and cholera, linked to inadequate hygiene and water supplies, are a significant cause of suffering and of infant mortality. Underground water sources in many places are threatened by the pollution produced in certain mining, farming and industrial activities, especially in countries lacking adequate regulation or controls. It is not only a question of industrial waste. Detergents and chemical products, commonly used in many places of the world, continue to pour into our rivers, lakes and seas.
Even as the quality of available water is constantly diminishing, in some places there is a growing tendency, despite its scarcity, to privatize this resource, turning it into a commodity subject to the laws of the market. Yet access to safe drinkable water is a basic and universal human right, since it is essential to human survival and, as such, is a condition for the exercise of other human rights. Our world has a grave social debt towards the poor who lack access to drinking water, because they are denied the right to a life consistent with their inalienable dignity. This debt can be paid partly by an increase in funding to provide clean water and sanitary services among the poor. But water continues to be wasted, not only in the developed world but also in developing countries which possess it in abundance. This shows that the problem of water is partly an educational and cultural issue, since there is little awareness of the seriousness of such behavior within a context of great inequality.
Greater scarcity of water will lead to an increase in the cost of food and the various products which depend on its use. Some studies warn that an acute water shortage may occur within a few decades unless urgent action is taken. The environmental repercussions could affect billions of people; it is also conceivable that the control of water by large multinational businesses may become a major source of conflict in this century.
Did You Know
- 663 million people, about twice the population of the United States lives without access to safe water; this is 1 in 10 persons in the world.
- 4 billion people – 1/3 of the global population lives without access to a toilet.
- More people have a mobile phone than a toilet.
- Women and children spend 125 million hours each day collecting water.
- Every 90 seconds a child dies from a water-related disease.
- Globally, 1/3 of all schools lack access to safe water and adequate sanitation.
What are Some of the Solutions
Many organizations are working to bring access to clean water to all, especially in rural areas in developing countries where the government does not seem able or willing to tackle the problem.
Catholic Relief Services (CRS)
Over the past five years, CRS has assisted more than two million people worldwide in gaining access to clean water. They have provided more than a million people in rural areas access to improved sanitation. They support water, sanitation and hygiene services in more than two dozen countries, focusing on services for the poorest and most remote communities, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa. See more at www.crs.org.
Other non-profits working to bring access to clean water:
- Oxfam: www.oxfamamerica.org/explore/stories/water/
- The Water Project: www.thewaterproject.org
- Water.org: www.water.org/
- Life Water International: www.lifewater.org/
What Can You Do
Pray the Laudato Si’ prayer (www.laudatosi.org/saint-francis-prayer/)
Read Pope Francis 2015 encyclical on Care of God’s Creation, Laudato Si’ (www.laudatosi.org/encyclical)
Reflect on Laudato Si’ using USCCB’s discussion guide (www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/environment/upload/laudato-si-discussion-guide.pdf)
Join one of the Texas A&M University student organizations working on the issue: Just4Water (www.just4water.tamu.edu), the Wells Project (www.thewellsproject.tamu.edu) or the Soil and Water Conservation Society (www.soilandwater.tamu.edu).
The right to food, like the right to water, has an important place within the pursuit of other rights, beginning with the fundamental right to life……The environment is God’s gift to everyone, and in our use of it we have a responsibility towards the poor, towards future generations and towards humanity as a whole. (Pope Benedict XVI, Caritas in Veritate, 2009, # 27, 48)
Activities in Life, Justice and Charity at St. Mary’s
Living the Mission: April 19, 6:30-7:30 pm, Activity Center, sponsored by Mission Trips This is your chance to see what it takes to live your mission in your everyday life, both as a student and post-graduation. Join us for dinner and our panel discussion afterwards. The panel of former students will discuss how God has worked in their lives through their own service and mission experiences and how they have been able to take that into the real world!
Mercy for the Poor or Mercy from the Poor?: April 20, 6:30-7:30 pm, room 201, sponsored by ACT A presentation by Fr Graham R. Golden (Norbertine Community): We often think of being merciful to others through charitable outreach, but are we not also in need of mercy ourselves?
Educational Inequity – Panel discussion: April 27, 6:30-7:30 pm, room 201, sponsored by ACT Come for a presentation and panel discussion on how to Address Educational Inequity in the USA with representatives of City Year, Apollo 20 Fellows program and Cristo Rey Jesuit Volunteer Service Corps. The panel will also share how you can make a difference by giving a year of service.