“When a European person flushes a toilet or an American person showers, he or she is using more water than is available to hundreds of millions of individuals living in urban slums or arid areas of the developing world. Dripping taps in rich countries lose more water than is available each day to more than 1 billion people.”
– 2006 UN Report
In many cases, when reporting on crises, voices of people get lost among statistics and comparisons. The global water crisis has been gaining momentum and stories about a potential “water bankruptcy” are not futuristic anymore. Fortunately, the voices of people are starting to be heard.
A recent report, part of the long-term project “Yemen: Assessing the Truth” supported by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, addresses the staggering water crisis threatening Yemen. “The capital, Sana’a, may be the first world capital to run out of its water supplies,” says writer Paul Stephens. “Tanker trucks trundle down the streets of the cities carrying groundwater from deep wells drilled in the countryside; families use and reuse water for washing three or four times, and children wander the streets with buckets of water collected from the publics spigots of mosques.”
The Huffington Post interviewed a woman affected by one of the worst fresh water crises that Mexico has ever seen, forcing people to migrate to the North, while in California, one of the main destinations in the United States for Mexican migrants, a three-year-old drought that continues to strike farmers is making news.
In “Fiji Water: Spin the Bottle,” Investigative Fund reporter Anna Lenzer confronts the politics of water by investigating the practices of America’s favorite bottled water. The self-assigned green company has become “America’s leading imported water” while Fijians are afflicted with typhoid outbreaks and chronic water stress.
Across the United States as well, water sources are being polluted by corporations spilling oil, bacteria, and toxic waste without being regulated. The Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Water Act is supposed to regulate major polluters. Today, however, “half of the nation’s largest known polluters” cannot be prosecuted, says the most recent installment from “Toxic Waters,” a series about pollution in American waters by The New York Times.
All around the globe, there are untold stories about the impact of the water crisis on people’s lives. Let’s hope that with the upcoming World Water Day on March 22, more of these stories will be heard.