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Thinking while on the toilet is a common pastime for many of us. So today, while you are doing the necessary, why don’t you think about this . . .

  • 2.6 billion people do not have somewhere safe, private or hygienic to go to the toilet.
  • One gram of feces can contain 10 million viruses, one million bacteria, 1000 parasite cysts and 100 parasite eggs.
  • Earlier this year the readers of the BMJ (British Medical Journal) voted sewage disposal and clean water supplies the single most important medical advance, beating a shortlist which included antibiotics, anaesthesia, vaccines and DNA.
  • Today, thousands of people around the world will literally be dying for a toilet.

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Asian FloodsIn case this has passed you by, Northern India, Nepal and Bangladesh are suffering their worst flooding for decades.

Hundreds dead, 20 million people displaced. Whole villages destroyed, crops washed away, livestock drowned. A high risk that diarrhoea, typhoid and cholera will claim the lives of more people, especially the young and old.

Even when the floods have receded, hunger and starvation are likely to be widespread due to the fact that many of the people affected are subsistence farmers rather than commercial crop producers.

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Less than an hour from where I’m writing, the issue of water poverty has become a reality for the people of the West country. Overwhelmed by flooding, the infrastructure that provides communities in South Gloucestershire with access to clean, safe, drinking water has collapsed. What is a massive ongoing global issue affecting nearly 2 billion people in developing countries has suddenly become headline news because it is now on our doorstep affecting a few thousand.

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Sublime CoverSome of you may have seen reports about the residents of New York City being encouraged to ditch their addiction to bottled water and drink the municipal tap water instead.

Well, aways wanting to be on the pulse, the new edition of Sublime magazine hits the shelves in the next few days and it caries an article I’ve written all about the bottled water industry.

If you’ve not read a copy of Sublime before, then you’re missing out. It’s an ethically-led, bi-monthly international lifestyle magazine with some great content. Each edition is based on a theme, and this upcoming edition is all about our relationship with water.

Though I discuss the environmental impact of the bottled water industry in the article, much of the content is given over to a small group of independent producers who plough their profits into providing water for communities in developing countries. I had particular support from an inspirational business woman, Katie Alcott, the founder of FRANK Water

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Re: Watered Down G8, Paul Mayers asked the obvious question: ‘rather than bewater mark paralysed by indifference, what can I and your other readers do about this?’

Before giving some suggestions, I’d like to say this: last night I went to hear Jim Wallis speak for the first time. As you might expect, he was thought provoking. One thing that particularly stuck with me, and it’s relevant here, was his observation about politicians and social justice. Most politicians want to do what is right. But few will do what is right simply by personal conscience. What really counts is the political mood. Politicians are elected servants of the people. So if they want to keep their jobs, they need re-electing. That’s why, metaphorically speaking, they stand with a wet finger in the air, testing to see from which direction the wind is coming. Therefore, if you want something achieved politcally, then have to generate a change in the direction of the wind.

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water For those of us concerned about the billions of people worldwide without access to clean, safe drinking water and adequate sanitation, the G8 was disappointing, to say the least. While Bono and Geldof rightly criticized the political posturing and pointed out the devil that lurked in the detail of the G8’s pledges, at least the fight against HIV/Aids was mentioned, allowing a platform to raise the issues once more. Once again, however, the G8 have done nothing to address the development issue, totally ignoring the UN’s Human Development report on the global water crisis. As this report points out, time and again, if the world is serious about ending poverty and attaining the Millennium Development Goals by 2015, then a genuine commitment to the provision of clean water is paramount. The reality is, you can’t deal with a developing nation’s health problems unless you deal with contaminated water, because half the hospital beds are taken up with diseases directly related to dirty water . There’s no point in building schools with the aspiration of educating children if you don’t first remove the need to walk for hours a day just to fetch water to meet basic needs. (In sub-Sahran Africa alone, it’s estimated that 40 billion hours are spent each year collecting water, and this mostly by women and children). Neither can you build a viable economy if your potential workforce is either sick or absent because their need to collect life-sustaining water is greater than their need to turn up for work.

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