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World Plumbing Day 2021

Access to sanitation around the world

11th March is World Plumbing Day, an initiative by the World Plumbing Council to spread awareness of the importance of plumbing and plumbers in protecting public health and improving amenity. Access to clean water and sanitation is a global priority and, according to The World Bank (a financial institution, not a health organisation) promoting good hygiene is one of the most cost-effective health interventions. That’s because every $1 invested in water and toilets returns an average of $4 in productivity.

Did you know that almost 1000 children under 5 die due to water born diarrhoeal diseases caused by open defecation near waterways and that if everyone in the world had clean water, the number of diarrhoeal deaths would be cut by a third?

In 2021, these are shocking statistics but when you consider it against the backdrop of a global pandemic, where hand washing is one of the greatest defences, we have against covid-19, it really highlights the need for improving access to water and hygiene across the world.

Access to sanitation across the planet

Living in a developed country like the UK, it’s easy to forget the conditions that many people in the world live in. For example:

  • 2.2 billion people lack safely managed drinking water
  • 4.5 billion people lack safely managed sanitation
  • 3 billion people lack basic handwashing facilities at home
  • 785 million people don’t have clean water close to home
  • 2 billion people don’t have decent toilet of their own
  • Water scarcity could displace 700 million people by 2030

Perhaps, as you might expect, the top three countries with the least access to water are all African nations: In Chad, 61% do not have access to a basic water service. In Ethiopia, 93% don’t have access to sanitation. In Liberia, 99% don’t have access to basic hygiene facilities. However, you may be shocked to discover that in Europe, 16 million people still lack access to basic drinking water.

Progress made

The global situation is still desperate, but progress has been made:

  • The global population of people who used safely managed sanitation services increased from 28% in 2000 to 39% in 2015
  • Between 2000-2017 2.1 billion people gained access to a decent toilet and 1.8 billion gained basic water access
  • Between 2000 and 2015 the number of people defecating in the open declined from 1229 to 892 million, an average of 22 million people per year

The United Nations has included “Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all” as one of its Sustainable Development Goals, with a target to achieve it by 2030. However, despite the progress made above, we are not on track to achieve this by the deadline set. Obviously, the coronavirus pandemic has had an impact on this.

Plumbing goals closer to home

While global sanitation is a huge priority, there are also things we need to achieve closer to home and plumbers have an important role to play. This includes things like reducing wasted water and making sure plumbing systems are efficient. Maintaining existing systems is therefore important but so is upskilling on new technology and renewable energy systems such as using solar energy to heat water and gadgets to reduce water usage.

On World Plumbing Day we need to give a thought to everyone across the world living without proper access to clean water and do what we can to use water responsibly.

See more about World Plumbing Day here.

See more about the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal relating to sanitation here.

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