Lack of water and poverty
Lack of water really does entail insufficient possibilities for development.
At the end of 2002 research workers of the British Centre for Ecology and Hydrology published the first Water Poverty Index (WPI). The WPI-index was developed in association with more than 100 water experts from all over the world. Its aim is to assess the water management in countries and communities according to an international standard. The index, a simple figure, gives an idea of the relations between water supplies, integrity of the environment, health, poverty and social neglect.
Water and poverty: a complex link
The link between water scarcity and poverty speaks for itself, but is nevertheless more complex than is generally assumed. The installation of a pump or water pipe does not necessarily imply that women and children can take optimal advantage of the nearby and pure water. Because of their position and role within the family or community they are hardly involved in the management or training.
Also, apart from the availability of water, the fight against poverty equally has to do with how efficiently the available water is used. So the WPI-index not only takes into account geophysical and economic factors, but also social factors. Concretely 5 parameters are inserted: resources, access, capacity, use and environment.
Resources: measures the amount of surface- and groundwater that can be withdrawn per inhabitant; also takes into account qualitative aspects.
Access: takes into account the time and distance needed to dispose of a sufficient amount of safe water for human consumption; also checks whether there is sufficient water for agriculture and industry.
Capacity: sets how efficient the community can manage the water, and among others, also takes into account water-related diseases and child mortality.
Use: this parameter works in the opposite direction: the less, the better; what quantities are used for housekeeping, agriculture, cattle breeding and industry?
Environment: values ecological sustainability and is related among others to the quality of drinking, surface and groundwater, and to soil erosion.
The WPI-index attributes 20 points to each of the 5 categories. So the highest possible score for a country is 100.
Today Finland, with 78 points, has the highest score on the WPI-table, followed by Canada, Iceland and Norway. In those countries the drinking, surface and groundwater is largely available or can be purchased sufficiently, it is efficiently distributed and the water supplies are of excellent quality. Not only industrial countries figure at the top of the WPI-list, though. 2 developing countries are fifth and sixth: Guyana and Surinam. Some industrial countries even have a low classification, such as the US (32d) and Japan (114th). The water consumption in the US is the highest in the world whereas Japan among other things has a low availability of water. Surface water pollution also results in a lower score. This is among others the case for Belgium, which ends up 56th. In the general classification the worst scores are for Niger, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Malawi, Djibouti, Chad, Benin, Rwanda and Burundi. By far last on the list is Haiti with 35 points.
However, according to Dr. Sullivan of the British Centre for Ecology and Hydrology the ranking is not the most important. More importantly a means is now available to get a picture of where there’s still work to be done and to measure progress. Moreover Dr. Sullivan states that the WPI-index is still under construction and that it still can be/needs to be adjusted.
An addition to the Water Poverty Index (WPI) is the Climate Vulnerability Index (CVI). The latter takes into account extra geographical factors in function of the examined place. The CVI gives you an idea of the vulnerability of the environment.