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Water on the brain

Posted 12/04/2011 by KatieJ

World Water Day, though you may be forgiven for having missed it, came and went on 22 March. Since 1993, the day has been held annually by the United Nations to focus attention on the importance of fresh water and the need for sustainable management of fresh water resources.

The need to put more effort into conserving and cleaning up the Earth’s water supplies has never been clearer. While three quarters of the Earth’s surface is covered with water, less than 0.03% of this is drinkable, according to Siemens, which is one of one of a number of companies that have joined the movement to encourage its employees to adopt more water-friendly practices. Today, 1.2m people are without access to clean drinking water and 2.4bn people are not connected to wastewater systems – and by the year 2025 the UN estimates that more than 3bn people will suffer from water shortages.

Selling bottled water may not seem like the most obvious solution to helping with some of the problems. So it may be a surprise to learn that a food and drink wholesaler based in Caerphilly, Wales, has funded a source of clean, free drinking water for a school in Malawi through sales of bottled water in the UK. The company, TDL Food and Drink, has reportedly drummed up funding for a ‘PlayPump’ water system at the school through donations made on sales of its bottled water product One Water – though how much of a donation the company makes is not reported. According to the Caerphilly Observer newspaper, in a letter to the company, the school’s deputy head states that cases of diarrhoea have dropped by almost 60%.

So, a good news story out of a bad one?

According to a 2001 World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) report, roughly 1.5m t of plastic are used to bottle 89bn L of water every year. While some of this may be recycled, huge quantities of energy are consumed and mountains of waste created in the process. Critics argue that bottled water is far less tested than the public water supply. And if all of that doesn’t make you think, then according to a 1999 study cited by allaboutwater.org, an estimated 25% or more of bottled water is really just tap water in a bottle.

Cath O’Driscoll - Deputy editor

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