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Global Water Challenges

I will give water to the thirsty and make streams flow on the dry ground. Isaiah 44 v



The world is experiencing greater extremes of droughts and floods, shortage and saturation. For many people this is a question of life or death.

Water scarcity can be created by drought and shortage (physical) or it can be due to a lack of infrastructure (economic). Either way, without reliable and secure access to water people cannot survive. Water scarcity is becoming an increasingly important factor in conflicts and in migration.

Total water resource

Picture Kagera 11 – caption Collecting water in Kagera, Tanzania


  • Usable water resources are unevenly distributed throughout the world. The Indian sub-continent and Sub Saharan Africa have the greatest shortages. Climate change will exacerbate this difference. 
  • Population growth, agriculture, urbanisation and industrial growth are putting more pressure on global resources.
  • 70% of global water resources are used for agriculture.  22% is used for industry (much in the production of energy).
  • The way land is used and managed affects the water resource. Deforestation, agricultural practices and hard surfaces are important factors.


Access to safe water & sanitation

Picture CREDIT Water Aid MarcoBetti.jpg

738 million people are without a safe water supply. More than a third of those live in Sub Saharan Africa. 

2.5 billion people are without basic sanitation. Nearly half of these do not use any facility at all and practise open defecation, posing enormous health risks. 72% of those with no sanitation live in south Asia.

4,000 children will die this very day from poor sanitation or dirty water. But, providing universal safe water and basic sanitation is not an impossible task.  There has been significant progress – 1.8 billion people have got access to improved drinking water since 1990. The skills and knowledge exist but there remains a lack of political will. Water and sanitation is a basic human right – ultimately it is a poverty and justice issue.

Water Aid

Picture – WaterErica.jpg  Image credit Water Aid/Alex Marco

Erika (pictured), from the Mbalawala village in Tanzania used to have to walk long distances to collect dirty water that caused both her and her family to regularly fall ill. Thankfully, this is no longer the case. By working closely with local partners Water Aid have installed a tap stand in the heart of the village and delivered vital hygiene education in her community. She told us:

“I feel I can at last look forward to a brighter future. Perhaps I will be a health and hygiene teacher when I leave school. If I still had dirty water I wouldn’t be going to school anymore. I probably wouldn’t have had any real education at all. Also, most of my friends would probably have died from the diseases we used to get. Life would be miserable.”

Christian Engineers in Development

Picture – P1010032 Caption: Cabbages growing in a swamp, drained by a pygmy community in southern Rwanda.

Working with the Church of Rwanda and a local NGO, Christian Engineers in Development has for many years provided technical support to communities and projects in Rwanda (and many other countries) and is almost entirely run by volunteers. Supporting families and communities to grow their own crops more efficiently and to have enough to spare to sell, has an enormous impact and is a self sustaining way forward. However, there is potential to do much more, if funding for training and development of skills in small scale irrigation was available.

Leigh Parratt the Rwanda coordinator writes:

“Rwanda is colloquially known as the land of 1000 hills. Unlike the common vision of Africa, Rwanda is situated at the source of the River Nile and is in the most part quite lush and green. Only the size of Wales, Rwanda’s countryside varies from dense forest in the west to dry flatter savannah plains in the east.  The once predictable seasons are changing though, due to climate change, and farmers are needing to develop new techniques to cope with different rainfall patterns. Although beautiful, the steep landscape also presents challenges of destructive erosion to the mainly rural sustenance farming population.”

What can we do?


  • Learn more about the issues. See Water Aid  and Christian Engineers in Development or invite a speaker.
  • Donate. Just £15 provides someone with access to safe water, sanitation and improved hygiene for life. You can give to the specialist organizations above or other charities which support water and sanitation projects (Christian Aid Tearfund Oxfam
  • Shop with water usage in mind. Most of the water we use is embedded in the food we eat or in manufactured goods. To have enough for all, we need to alter our diets, waste less of the food that’s produced and change farming & manufacturing practices to produce more with less water. Play the “One Drop” game ( to see where your food could become more water efficient.
  • Reduce your carbon footprint.  Visit Shrinking the Footprint or Eco-congregations
  • Pray. Pray for all who thirst, who have to walk to find water, who drink water that brings ill health, who suffer danger or loss of dignity through lack of sanitation. Pray also for all who work to bring access to safe water and basic sanitation and those who campaign. Pray for ourselves that we become part of the solution rather than the problem. May we thirst for the waters of justice and deny no one the water of life.


God of abundant life, let water flow and wash away injustice. Amen.






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