'A footprint means pressing down and global means world, so 'global footprint' means pressing down on the world and we don't want to press too hard' (child's definition of a Global Footprint)
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what about climate change?

A disastrous footprint

Water can also be a disaster! Too much or too little water is responsible for the vast majority of natural disasters. In the last 10 years or so, 90 % of natural disasters were due to water-related events, and they are on the increase. Two out of every five people now live in areas vulnerable to floods and rising sea-levels. Floods affect more regions and more people than any other disastrous event.

Flooding increases health risks by contaminating drinking water and destroying sanitation systems. Also people who have lost everything in a flood – their homes, their food, their livelihood – are also more vulnerable to disease. Droughts are also a severe threat to health as they often worsen malnutrition and famine, and make access to adequate water supplies much more difficult.

The poor walk, but the rich leave their footprint

The feet of poor people often walk many miles each day to collect water; but it is those in rich countries that have the large water footprint. If people don’t have access to water where they live they have to collect it from somewhere else. Women and children — particularly girls — may spend hours every day collecting water.

The time spent collecting water means women can’t do paid work and children can’t go to school. And if the water collected is dirty or contaminated, families get ill, which also prevents them from working or going to school. So, without safe water and basic sanitation people simply cannot escape poverty.

Did you know

In Tanzania, 12% more children were found to attend school when safe water was available within 15 minutes from their homes rather than one hour away.

A large water footprint leaves some trampled under foot
Sometimes, plenty of water for some means much less water or even no water for others. For example, large farms and factories can use huge amounts of water, leaving less for people to meet their basic needs like drinking, cooking and washing. Large industries can also cause pollution and so spoil people’s water supply, making it unsafe to drink.

Sometimes the building of large dams for hydroelectricity can force people to move away from rivers that have provided water, or flood their homes, forcing them to move to drier areas.

And to make matters worse, poor people with a small water footprint often pay more for their water than the rich with their large water footprint. In Kibera in Kenya, Africa’s largest slum, people pay three times more for their water than people in New York or London.

This is because water pipes often don’t reach poorer areas and so slum dwellers face a choice between buying water from expensive private traders or taking a long trip to the nearest – often dirty – stream.

Did you know?

For communities without safe water, getting access to such water is nearly always their first and most important priority.