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It’s crazy, isn’t it? There are millions of people in deserts, desperate for a drop of water, while millions of others fight back the flood water, desperate for the rain to stop


“It was one of the worst years my parents could remember. Each day, I had to walk 20 kilometres to find a well to fill my bucket. The walk back was the worst – the bucket was so heavy on my head that I swear my neck had shrunk by the time I got home. One day, the well dried up and I had to look for water in the ponds. My mum had to boil it to get rid of the dirt and microbes. This takes ages and you have to wait until it cools down before you can use it. But it’s OK. It’s what you have to do if you live in a dry, hot country.”
Hajara Kader, Niger


click picture to enlarge
Viola Caretti, Italy



The rains started in October, 1997 and ended in mid-April, 1998: six months of disaster in Kenya. People and animals drowned, crops were flooded, and bridges and roads were spoiled by the deluge of water. Even today, many of the roads have not been repaired in the poorer areas of the country. Waterborne diseases such as cholera, dysentery, typhoid and bilharzia increased due to the rains. In a developing country such as Kenya, people have a hard time finding the money to rebuild their homes. Where crops and farms were destroyed, others also lost their jobs. With global warming, the floods will only get worse.
Julie Nailantei, Kenya


Ica is a city situated on the banks of a river that flows west from the Andes to the Pacific across the arid, Ica desert. It very rarely rains. The extreme increase in rainfall in the Andes during the 1997-98 El Niño storms made the river flood. The houses in Ica are built of adobe (mud bricks) that simply get washed away when it rains too hard. During El Niño, half the city was washed away. Homes, schools, health clinics, places of work were devastated. It has set the city back years.
Tomás Julio, Peru



Water consumption has increased everywhere in the last 50 years. In Western Europe between 1950 and 1990, it grew from 100 to 560 cubic kilometres a year – after which it has declined a little. In Asia, it has increased from 600 to 5,000 cubic kilometres between 1900 and the mid-1980s. In Beijing, water consumption increased almost 100 times from 1950 to 1980. With limited amounts of water, unevenly distributed, these increases place great stress on our water supply. The crazy thing is that, even in developed countries, huge quantities of water are lost through leaky pipes. In parts of Central Asia, the pipes are so bad, over half the water is lost through leaks.
Look at the average water consumption per person in different parts of our world. The average North American is using more than eight times as much as an average African uses.
in cubic metres per person
World average 645
Africa 202
North America 1,798



web site editor: webmaster@grida.no Last update: March 2000