Staff reflection on how water situation has changed in South Africa, Brazil, India & Mexico

Water

Throughout the world, societies have one thing in common: a water problem.

That’s being general, as concerns such as pollution, contamination and mistreatment are a leading list of critical issues that governments need to address. As our diverse staff hail from about two dozen countries, we spoke with a few members about water issues currently on their mind.

South Africa

The city of Cape Town barely escaped a water crisis when the precious liquid almost ran dry three years ago, a situation spawned by a combination of factors, such as lack of rain, massive urbanization and a relatively high water consumption for a city of almost four million.

At the height of the panic, residents were restricted to fifty liters per day. For reference, a four-minute shower would have been over the limit, as it comes in at using sixty liters total.

While people most likely went over their daily allowances in some instances, one thing proved true – citizens ultimately came together to avert the crisis. By changing their habits, and with a little help from increased rain, the city residents were able to implement the recommendations from experts in order to safeguard their access. This is critically important in South Africa, which is constantly on edge of a water crisis as one of the driest countries on the planet.

This is a belief echoed by South Africa native Tim, who noted that the issue is widespread.

“One of the most pressing concerns surrounding water in South Africa is the availability,” he says, “as there always appears to be looming or present drought somewhere in the country.”

While Cape Town’s dramatic situation made it into the international news, temporary or constant water shortage is a reality for many parts of the country. Those throughout the community are resilient, as showers are short and rain from roofs is collected for the garden.

“As with most critical situations the positive aspect is the ability of people and communities to change their ways and learn to adapt. South Africans also value water more since they’ve experienced, in some cases, what it means to live with very little to no water,” says Tim.

Brazil

A massive country with over two hundred million people. Of this, over four million do not have access to safe water and another 24 million make do without proper sanitation.

This leads to illness, and in times of a novel virus, possibly unrest. And similar to larger countries such as the United States and Russia, massive inequality is commonplace throughout Brazil.

Vitoria, part of our water team originally from Brazil, mentions how the divide leads to different realities for water access: noting the drastic need for financial and infrastructure repair.

“We have a water treatment system in place but a lot of times, although we have qualified individuals to run, we don’t have the financial resources to do so successfully,” she says.

“Most families do not have a reservoir in their house and are dependent on this system. If there are any glitches, they can spend days or longer without tap water at home.

And on top of it, Vitoria notes how the sanitation system in poor neighborhoods is limited. So even though the water treatment works, when the water reaches the houses, it is dirty again.

India

There may not be another country where the need for clean water is more dire than India. The World Economic Forum finds that upwards of forty million liters of waste enters the waterways of India each day, with only a fraction being treated adequately.

As a result, close to three-fourths of the surface water in the country is not fit for consumption. With a population over 1.3 billion, at least tens of millions live in extreme poverty: possibly a reason why residents continue to consume water they know to be dangerous.

At the end of the last decade, at least 36,000 people throughout the country were diagnosed with water-borne diseases each day – which resulted in thousands of deaths each year.

Our CMO Karan, born and raised in India, can’t remember drinking water straight from the tap. His family initially boiled water before consumption. Then in the 1990s, it seemed that reverse osmosis (RO) purification devices were everywhere – and his family took advantage.

“My biggest fear is that for decades we, Indians, have been drinking mineral-depleted water straight from a reverse osmosis device for too long,” says Karan. “Prolonged consumption of such water over time is bound to have adverse health implications.”

Mexico

A common complaint is that wastewater in the country is untreated – which allows for waterborne illnesses to be prevalent. And many citizens don’t want to risk it.

Even when tap water is available, citizens are unsure of safety. It’s reported that nearly 75% of the country drinks bottled water, with its own associated complications, including pollution.

Andy, a new team member from Monterrey in the northeast of the country, notes how his large hometown has drinkable water – but potable water is not available through all of Mexico.

“My main concern with the water situation in Mexico is all the plastic garbage generated by the lack of drinkable tap water,” says Andy. “There has to be a way to do better.”

By Mitte Team — Mar 31, 2020
The information contained in this article is provided for educational and informational purposes only, and should not be construed as health or nutritional advice.

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