Issue

Water and Sanitation

Water issues affect us all, from the women who spend hours a day fetching water to political battles over international rivers to melting icepack and rising sea levels. We are all downstream.

Worldwide, just under 900 million people lack reliable access to safe water that is free from disease and industrial waste. And 40 percent do not have access to adequate sanitation facilities. The result is one of the world's greatest public health crises: 4,500 children die every day from waterborne diseases, more than from HIV-AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis combined.

A robust economy depends on water. So does a thriving ecosystem. Enter politics, fulcrum of the water issue, weighing the fate of economies against the health of individuals and of the environment as a whole. Balance has been elusive. One fifth of the world's population lives in areas where water is physically scarce, and a quarter of the population faces shortages due to lack of infrastructure.

Water and Sanitation was produced by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting in partnership with National Geographic, PBS NewsHour, the Common Language Project, and the Under-Told Stories Project. Support provided by the Laird Norton Family Foundation and individual donors.

 

 

Water and Sanitation

Quenching the Thirst: Seattle Brings the Most Precious Liquid Abroad

EDITOR'S NOTE: Today is World Water Day. To mark the critical importance of water, the P-I is featuring two articles by Sarah Stuteville, a Seattle native and lead reporter for The Common Language Project, a Seattle-based media nonprofit. For more of Stuteville's reporting from Ethiopia, visit clpmag.org. Funding for these articles was provided by The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

Walking for Water: An Exhausting Job That Never Ends

“Just breathe,” I tell myself as I slowly shuffle up the dusty gravel path. “One breath with each step.” I have a muddy yellow plastic can strapped to my back. It is filled with water and weighs 50 pounds, close to a third as much as I weigh. It is hard for me to walk, but I am trying to follow the cracked plastic sandals in front of me.

Haramaya: Voices from a Vanished Lake

When Chala Ahmed won the U.S. visa lottery in the town of Haramaya in eastern Ethiopia, his first thought was to earn enough money in America to build his mother a home. The new house would be painted pink and sit behind a high white gate, and it would be built on the shores of Lake Haramaya, a nine-mile stretch of placid water that gave his hometown its name.

It took Ahmed, 26, almost eight years of long-haul trucking across the United States before his family's house was finished. He sent money home regularly, and relatives reported back on the progress.

Ethiopia: Water Walker

Every day, three times a day, the women and young girls of Dillo Town, Ethiopia have to walk an hour and a half hauling water from a natural spring to take care of their families' daily needs. The water is brackish, contaminated by livestock and unfit to drink. But they do drink it and often get sick. Jessica Partnow offers this Day in the Life portrait of a water walker as typical of thousands of women around the world who have to walk miles every day just to get drinking water.