Drought, heat and mismanagement make obtaining fresh water an increasingly difficult task

As the world warms due to human-induced climate change, it is becoming increasingly difficult for many people to access fresh water for drinking, cooking and cleaning.

That’s because the warming world is leading to erratic rainfall patterns, extreme heat and periods of drought – on top of decades of poor water management and extraction policies around the world. The United Nations estimates that approximately 2.2 billion people worldwide do not have access to safely managed drinking water.

On this World Water Day, Associated Press journalists from around the world interviewed some people struggling to get fresh water.


Justina Flores, a 50-year-old grandmother, lives in a hilly suburb of Lima, Peru, without running water. With some of the water she gets from the government, she washes her family of six’s clothes by hand, then reuses it to wash the dog or dumps it outside on the ground to keep the dust from rising. comes into her house.

The Peruvian government provides drinking water to 1.5 million of the poorest residents, such as Flores, who live in the hills. Giant tankers filled with water trudge up steep roads, and scarce resources often cause conflict between neighbors.

Flores does her best to use as little water as possible in all her daily activities. She has an old washing machine, but by washing by hand she can save about 45 liters of water per wash.

She and her family receive around 3,000 liters every week for all their washing, cooking and cleaning, while in San Isidro, the richest part of the capital, a family of the same size uses an average of 11,700 liters (3,090 litres). gallons) per week from tap water, according to official data.

Flores has been a domestic worker in the homes of wealthier families since she was a child, so she has seen this inequality firsthand.

“In those houses you can bathe as often as you want. Here it’s at most twice a week,’ she said, looking out her window at the buildings on the hills.


In the vast archipelago state of Indonesia, access to clean water is uncertain – even in the country’s most developed city, Jakarta, where more than 10 million people live.

Since she was a young girl, Devi Putri Eka Sari, now a 37-year-old mother of three, has had to buy water from the vendors going up and down the narrow cobblestone streets in her lower-income neighborhood – even after the government installed water pipes and pumps that draw water from the ground.

The government’s water is not reliable, she says. Sometimes it just drips from the tap when she turns it on. Even if it flowed regularly, she wouldn’t dare use it to drink.

“It’s not healthy. It’s full of bacteria that can make you sick,” she said. “It smells like a swimming pool, like chemicals.”

Her fear of bacteria is not unfounded: according to the World Health Organization, seven in ten Indonesian households consume drinking water contaminated with E. coli.

Instead, like millions of Indonesians across the country, Sari buys water in large refillable containers or packaged single-use plastic bottles. They are easy to find, but create large amounts of waste in cities’ already plastic-choked waterways.

“This is what I’ve been doing all my life,” Sari said. “It’s the option we have.”


Mimoun Nadori crouches to reach into the river and taste the water next to the groves where his family has long grown fruits and vegetables on their farms in northern Morocco.

He grins. It’s salty. But this was not the case in the past.

“Everything was green,” he remembers. “We drank from the river and washed in the river. We made a living out of it.”

But less rainfall and more dams and upstream pumping mean less water flows through Morocco’s Moulouya River, threatening the livelihoods of farmers like Nadori. Where the river once flowed from the mountains to the Mediterranean Sea, it now stands still, allowing seawater to creep inland and turning water from a source of life into a deadly poison.

Nadori started importing water for the chicken coop he manages on the property after his cows, which were used to drinking from the river, died. He did not know that the water was brackish, nor that they fed on it until they died.

Overuse of the river has also put new pressure on water reserves lying underground, as Moroccan farmers like Nadori – as well as those across the nearby Algerian border – dig more wells to compensate for the loss of their former wells . delivery.

“We won’t lie and say the reason is just people or drought, it’s both,” he said. “We don’t know how to use water and we waste a lot of water.”


There was a time when the water in Fred and Robin Imfeld’s pool sparkled on hot summer days and their gardens were full of plants.

But two years ago, the well that supplied their home in rural Corning, California, dried up for the first time in about four decades. Now the pool is empty and their trees are rusty brown.

Across California, domestic wells have dried up in record numbers in recent years due to drought and overpumping, causing groundwater levels to drop. The couple wants to drill a new and deeper well, but at a cost of $25,000 it is a significant expense.

Today they depend on state-funded water supplies. Twice a month they get a 9,463 liter (2,500 gallon) tank filled with water outside their garage for showering, washing dishes and laundry. They also receive 113 liters of drinking water every other week for cooking and drinking.

When they need a little extra, Fred fetches water, just as he did for seven months when their well was dry before they got the tank. He loads his truck with containers, drives about three miles to a friend’s house and fills them with water.

“We’re just emotionally exhausted with our own personal lives and trying to deal with (the water) and worrying about what’s going to happen and where we’re going,” Fred said.


Joyce Mule walked for about two hours to find water. In her hilly and rocky village in Makueni County in the arid southeast of Kenya, water is very scarce. There is little tap water and few reliable alternatives.

One way Mule got water was through dip holes in sandy riverbeds. These work by people digging into the sand and the water contained in the pores seeping from the adjacent sand into the hole. This method is still popular in southeastern Kenya.

But in 2012, she and her fellow villagers decided to tackle that problem by adopting the rock catchment system, a method of collecting rainwater from stone outcrops, giant, naturally occurring rocks that rise hundreds of feet above the ground. Mule collects water here about five times a day and takes about half an hour to get it home.

The technology works in a simple way: villagers build a concrete wall around the rock to collect rainwater. They placed large stones to filter the water and a pipe to direct the water to storage tanks. The water collected from the rocks catchment flows through the pipe to the tanks and then to a nearby water collection point where residents collect it from the taps.

She is happy because it is close, always available and the water is clean. As a result, her trees produce more fruit and her cows produce more milk.

“We used to think these stones were worthless, but now we see their benefits,” she said.


Ramkrishan Malawat, 52, remembers a time when groundwater was just 21 meters below ground level and a fast-flowing river 10 kilometers away from his farm in Bawal, near New Delhi, provided abundant water.

But now the river has dried up and the water is 76 meters underground. “Every year we are forced to dig deeper,” he said. Malawat uses a borewell to collect water for its crops: mustard, maize and various millets.

The deeper the water is dirtier, he claims, because “the level of contamination by fluoride and other chemicals increases.”

India is the world’s largest extractor of groundwater and, according to the UN, pumps more water than the United States and China combined

Extraction for agriculture, construction and other needs, combined with climate changes such as irregular rainfall and extreme heat, means groundwater levels are falling dramatically across the country.

“There is so much construction going on here and now when it rains, the water just runs away” instead of seeping into the ground and replenishing supplies, Malawat said. Bawal is better known for its automotive industry than its agriculture. “I sometimes worry that in ten to fifteen years there will not be good water available for agriculture in my city.”


Associated Press journalists Carlos Mureithi in Makueni, Kenya; Sibi Arasu in Bengaluru, India, and Manish Swarup in Bawal, India; Dorany Pineda in Los Angeles; Sam Metz and Oussama Alaoui in Ras El Ma, Morocco; Victoria Milko in Jakarta, Indonesia; Franklin Briceño in Lima, Peru, and Natalia Gutierrez in New York contributed to this report.


The Associated Press’ climate and environmental reporting receives funding from several private foundations. AP is solely responsible for all content. Find AP’s Standards for Working with Charities, a list of supporters, and funded coverage areas at AP.org.

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